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Chapter 84: Parasite
Kong Hou saw that Sect Master Shuang Qing’s eyes were gentle as he looked at her. She smiled and drank the tea. She felt even more puzzled. She remembered that this rectangular-faced sect master had been polite to her before entering the secret realm. She could not help but think more seeing such a sudden change.
“Sect Master, you are too polite.” In front of other people, Kong Hou could not ask what the other was thanking her for, and let the matter pass.
Sect Master Shuang Qing did not appear to intend to explain. When the banquet ended and Kong Hou prepared to leave, a disciple of Primary Luck Sect came with an invitation, saying the sect master wanted to meet with her for a discussion. Kong Hou was even more puzzled. What matter could she, a young inexperienced disciple, discuss with a sect master?
Primary Luck Sect was not a small sect like Five Flavors Manor and Auspicious Pavilion where most matters could be concluded in a short while.
While puzzled by Shuang Qing’s actions, Kong Hou could not refuse the other’s polite conduct and agreed.
“Will Sect Master Shuang Qing mind if I accompany Miss Kong Hou over?” Huan Zhong looked at the disciple acting as messenger. “Kong Hou is young. Girls are usually timid, and I am afraid she will not be able to speak properly and offend the sect master.”
The messenger disciple had not expected the frosty Spirit Master Huan Zhong to suddenly speak. Timid girls, give offense through words. How many women in the cultivation world were actually timid, and offense…
This was not being worried that Celestial Kong Hou would offend the sect master; he clearly worried about Celestial Kong Hou going alone. Used to seeing the Radiance Sect sword cultivators being cold, the messenger disciple was unaccustomed to seeing a spirit master who liked to “meddle.”
“It is this lowly sect’s honor that Spirit Master will also come.” The messenger disciple agreed after a moment of thought.
In a place like this, he could not say that others were not welcome.
The guests left, and the busy Primary Luck Sect looked much calmer. Disciples with swords in hand passed by, bowing towards them and then moving to the side.
“Spirit Master, Celestial, please come this way.”
Passing by a lotus pond, Kong Hou stopped when seeing Shuang Qing sitting in the middle of the pond.
“Celestial, Spirit Master, please board.” The messenger disciples pull out a jade boat from his sleeve and gestured with his hand.
Huan Zhong jumped onto the boat first and quickly inspected it before he took a step to the side, his hands behind his back. Kong Hou quickly flew next to him and smiled at the messenger disciple.
The jade boat moved on its own, and carried Kong Hou and Huan Zhong towards the pavilion in the water.
“Can you see how many formations are in the pond?” Huan Zhong admired the blooming lotus flowers in the pond and asked Kong Hou.
“Oh…” Kong Hou looked seriously for a long time. “I only see three kinds—Spirit Hastening Formation, Five Elements Formation, and Sound Locking Formation.” The Spirit Hastening and Five Elements formations were built for the lotus flowers in the pond, and the Sound Locking Formation was to protect the pavilion in the middle of the water and to stop others from easily entering. The jade boat under her feet was the key to unlocking the formations. Without this jade boat, one would be attacked by the formation when they got close.
“You can now recognize these formations after just a few days, very good.” This was not the season for lotus flowers, but they were blooming happily. The water which should have been turbid was clear to the bottom, the golden koi easily seen swimming in the water. If water was clear, it should not have any fish. But the fish here lived easily by the spirit energy.
“Then am I right?” Kong Hou looked at Huan Zhong with wide eyes.
“There are these three formations under the water, but that is just on the surface. The genuinely powerful one is the flowing formation created by the koi and the lotus flower, the Soul Devouring Formation.” The mist which floated on top of the water surface caused the entire scenery to look beautiful, but the mists were weapons for killing.
“Soul Devouring Formation?” Kong Hou had heard this name before. She heard that people who entered such formations would lose their minds. If someone with malicious intent intruded, if they could not withstand the power of the formation, they would become mad, and then die from an explosion of their spirit platform.
The sects all had protective formations both inside and outside. Their disciples all wore life tokens to avoid being killed by their sect’s formations if they accidentally went to a wrong place.
She observed the water surface for a long time. Until the jade boat stopped beside the stairs to the pavilion above the water, she could not see it. She sighed inwardly. As expected, she was not skilled. She really could not learn something like formations in a day or two.
Shuang Qing was surprised at seeing Spirit Master Huan Zhong follow her. He invited the pair to sit. “Spirit Master, Celestial, please sit.”
Kong Hou and Huan Zhong sat down. An old person with a benevolent expression poured tea for her. She received it with both hands. “Thank you, Elder.”
“Celestial does not have to be so courteous. This old man is only the sect master’s servant and cannot accept the name of elder.” The subordinate smiled and placed some dishes of pastries in front of Kong Hou.
“Accomplishment is seniority, age is seniority. You have both. To this junior, you are an elder,” Kong Hou replied gravely. “Elder, please do not be modest.”
The old subordinate’s smile grew even more harmonious as he moved behind Shuang Qing.
“Today, this one invited Celestial to thank Celestial again.” Shuang Qing did not say too much to Kong Hou and said directly, “My poor apprentice Xu Feng is my first apprentice. When I brought him from the mortal world, he was only five years old. At the time, it was the change in dynasty and the people had no way to live. Countless people sold their children in order to live. Xu Feng’s mother did not want him to be traded by her husband for food, and could not fight against her husband. When he was unconscious from illness, she threw him into an inaccessible pond.”
For a timid woman who relied on a man and could not make her own decisions, throwing the child to somewhere where people could find him was the most daring thing she had ever done. If Xu Feng hadn’t been ill and would make noise, or if she feared her husband would discover him, she wouldn’t have dared do this.
How likely would a feverish child abandoned to the elements survive? She might have known or not. Maybe she did it for her own peace of mind. But no matter what, this was the only thing she could do for the child.
As far as the young Xu Feng was concerned, he could not forget how his mother, who treated him best, abandoned him when he was ill.
“A few decades ago, I found he still missed his birth mother and took him to the mortal realm. But more than a century had passed. Even if his mother hadn’t died in the war, she would have passed away.” Shuang Qing sighed. At this time, his slightly amusing rectangular face became even more emotional. “If I did not conceal from him that children were being sold for food because I thought he was too young, he may not be like this today.”
“Sect Master may be incorrect. If you told him this, Young Master Feng might have an unresolvable mental barrier due to his father selling him for food.” That changeover in dynasty should be when the ancestor of the Ji Family had overthrown the Chu Dynasty.
She had not expected that the past was related to the ancestor of the Ji Family.
“No matter what, ever since Celestial talked to Xu Feng that night, he stopped running around and can sit still to listen to me.” Shuang Qing grimaced. “I do not aspire for him to ascend. As long as he lives well, I am content.”
After saying this, he put a carved sandalwood box in front of Kong Hou. “This one is very grateful to Celestial for the favor and hopes that Celestial will accept this gift.”
“This junior is very happy that Young Master Xu has recovered, but this junior cannot accept this gift.” Kong Hou shook her head in refusal. “Sect Master, my ancestors are connected to that calamity of the people. Young Master Xu Feng was separated from his loved ones because of that calamity. I just said a few words to him—that does not count as any favor.”
“Celestial is only seventeen in bone age. Even if the matter two centuries ago is related to your ancestor, it has nothing to do with you,” Shuang Qing said. “Celestial looks down on this one because of disdain?”
“Sect Master is too severe. This junior does not mean such a thing.” Seeing Shuang Qing insist, Kong Hou could only accept the gift. She bid farewell to Spirit Master Shuang Qing.
This time Spirit Master Shuang Qing did not keep them and had the servant personally see them out.
When the servant returned, Shuang Qing was still drinking tea in the pavilion. Seeing him return, Shuang Qing said coolly, “They have left?”
“Already left. They seem to be going east.” The subordinate put out a new pot of tea for Shuang Qing. “Sect Master, the talismans you gave Celestial Kong Hou are all strongly defensive ones. You worry she will encounter danger on her journey?”
Shuang Qing sneered. “She is a disciple of Splendid Cloud Sect. Why would I worry for her?” He was slightly unhappy and put down the teacup. “I just do not want to owe her a favor. This way, when I pull Splendid Cloud Sect out of the top ten, I will not feel I am in the wrong.”
“So that is how it is,” the subordinate said in realization. “I saw Sect Master put in rings that you personally forged and assumed that Sect Master appreciated juniors like Miss Kong Hou. Sect Master, please forgive me.”
“Never mind, I will not argue with you.” Shuang Qing emphasized, “But as the sect master, I will not have any extraneous feelings towards anyone unrelated. Also, why should I appreciate an apprentice of Splendid Cloud Sect?”
When he travelled over mountains and water to the base of Splendid Cloud Mountain, he would have been able to complete the Immortality Questing Path if he had an extra half hour. But no matter how he begged, the people of Splendid Cloud Sect were not willing to give him a chance. They said his personality was not suitable for Splendid Cloud Sect.
Now, he was the sect master of Primary Luck Sect. He wondered, would those antiques of Splendid Cloud Sect who said he was not suitable regret it now?
Kong Hou handed the box to Huan Zhong when they got on the carriage leaving Primary Luck Sect. She wanted him to see if there were any problems with the things in the box. This did not mean that she liked to think lowly of people. She really could not avoid thinking too much given the drastic difference in Sect Master Shuang Qing’s attitude.
Huan Zhong opened the box to look. This was a storage box with a storage formation filled with all kinds of talismans. The most valuable of them was a first class defensive ring. The ring was small but inlaid with numerous patterns. This ring also had countless formations. It could be described as worth many cities.
Rubbing this ring, Huan Zhong felt slightly puzzled. What did Shuang Qing intend in giving Kong Hou such valuable talismans? He saw Kong Hou was talented and wanted to recruit her to Primary Luck Sect?
“They are all good.” Huan Zhong put the ring back into the box and handed the box to Kong Hou. “You can put it away.”
“I thought there were hidden weapons inside.” Kong Hou put the box onto a shelf in the carriage and muttered, “While this Sect Master Rectangular… no, Sect Master Shuang Qing’s personality is strange, he is very good to his apprentices.”
“You are an apprentice of Splendid Cloud Sect. If he dared to put hidden weapons in the gift box he gave you in the presence of others, he would not stay as sect master,” Huan Zhong said. “Not just him. All of Primary Luck Sect would be affected.”
Using lowly tactics as a sect leader against a junior was something the entire cultivation world could not tolerate.
“That is true.” Kong Hou nodded. “With you present, he definitely wouldn’t dare do such a thing.”
Huan Zhong laughed. This was not because of him. Shuang Qing had ambition, but he was not mad. He knew very well what he could not do.
“Ah, I almost forgot.” Kong Hou took out the unnamed spirit grass in the pot she had put in the storage ring. Seeing the leaves dropping, she poured a few drops of spirit fluid in the small flowerpot and then placed the flower pot in the carriage.
Seeing Kong Hou still caring for these grasses, Huan Zhong took out a bottle of medicinal fluid for plants from his storage ring. He copied Kong Hou and poured a few drops.
“What is this?” Kong Hou smelt a faint fragrance.
“It is a medicinal liquid an elder of the sect created which can increase the vitality of flora.” Huan Zhong put the medicinal fluid into a drawer. This way, he would remember to water it daily.
“Then should we water it some more?” Kong Hou stared at the drooping leaves of the spirit grass. “The spirit grass has stayed in the storage ring for a long time—it must be in great need of fertilizer.”
“Water more?” Huan Zhong turned to look at her and hesitated whether he should do as she said.
“Yes, yes,” Kong Hou nodded. “A bit more.”
Huan Zhong added more following her words.
Outside the carriage, Lin Hu shook his head. A drop of that medicine liquid could save a century old tree. These two wastrels were using it as water to water spirit grasses. This was both a waste and a sure way to kill the spirit grass.
Soon, the sound of eating and drinking came from the carriage. Lin Hu leaned against the door and used the whip to gently pat the horse’s back. The horses flew into the air, pulling the carriage into the sky.
“Huan Zhong, let us cultivate together.”
When a young girl said something like this, she could not easily drop the preceding words. Otherwise, this would easily cause misunderstandings.
Lin Hu shook his head. Master would have the fate of marrying into the wife’s family. He would let them do as they wanted.
After a night, Kong Hou woke up from meditation. She yawned and kicked her slightly stiff legs. She looked outside, lifting the curtain, and saw mist and clouds. They were still flying in the sky.
She patted her face and opened the carriage door. “Elder Lin, have we not arrived yet?”
“It’ll take a bit longer,” Lin Hu said. “There is a grass plains below. I’ll have the horses go down to rest and feed them.”
The Unforeseeable Sea, the Wind Listening Valley, the mortal world. Of those, the Wind Listening Valley was the closest to Kui City. So after leaving Kui City, Miss Kong Hou decided to depart for Wind Listening Valley. Master listened to Miss Kong Hou so he, the carriage driver, just abided by Miss Kong Hou’s ideas.
The carriage landed. Huan Zhong got off the carriage and had Kong Hou change and wash inside the carriage. Just after he took a few steps off the carriage, he suddenly heard Kong Hou shouting for him.
“Huan Zhong, Huan Zhong!”
Huan Zhong flew back to the carriage and lifted the curtain. “What happened?”
“The fruits on the spirit grass are gone!” Kong Hou pointed at where the spirit grass had previously produced fruit. The fruit was gone, but there was a long and thin branch. The branch was slightly green and appeared extremely fragile, as if it would break with a breath.
This was the same with the two other spirit grasses. The three slender branches leaned together, as fragile as newborns.
“This is not something the spirit grass itself should have.” Huan Zhong observed for a while. “The red fruits were not fruits, but something that grew like a parasite on the spirit grasses.”
No wonder when he had seen them, he felt that these spirit grasses were Transplant Grasses, but then he thought he had been incorrect. When Transplant Grasses were parasitized, the parasite would instinctively have the transplant grasses change appearance. The more ordinary, the better. This way, the parasite would not be easily discovered.
The parasite suddenly grew out of the parasitoid because it had absorbed enough spirit energy it did not have to parasitize the spirit grass.
Huan Zhong found that this parasite was extremely strange. Even though it had used the transplant grass to branch out, it had not grown its own roots. It seemed determined to not leave, and stay on the roots of the transplant grass.
“Huan Zhong, what grass is this?” Kong Hou stopped breathing, afraid that she would break the slender branches.
Huan Zhong shook his head. “I’ve never seen it before, and there are no records of it.”
Kong Hou picked up the spirit and medicine liquid on the shelf and poured half a bottle of each in. “Drink more spirit fluid, grow up fast.”
For some reason, she felt she had seen the barely distinguishable leaves on the tiny branches before.
“Master, Miss Kong Hou, I saw some…”
When Lin Hu lifted the curtain, the wind blew in, and a small branch snapped in the wind.
“Ah yayaya!” Kong Hou leapt beside Huan Zhong and pressed down on the curtain to block the wind. “It snapped, snapped.”
“Careful, do not trip.” Huan Zhong held her shoulder and reached out to help her pull the curtain so Kong Hou did not have to stay in such an awkward position.
Kong Hou sat up and looked at the slender branch that had fallen on the spirit grass after it snapped. With a kind of pity, she found a jade box in her storage ring and put the branch in.
At least… it would have a resting place in death.
Lin Hu was silent outside the curtain. “…”
Next time when they traveled, Master might not want him as the carriage driver.
Thinking she had found a resting place for the small branch, Kong Hou finally did not feel guilt when she looked at the two remaining branches. She made a boundary around the flower pot which could block rain, wind and light before she dared to open the curtain. “Elder Lin, what were you saying?”
Smelling the heavy scent of medicinal fluid in the curtain, Lin Hu did not ask the two what they had done inside. “There is a pond ahead. I tested it with a talisman, and the water has no problems. We can store some away in water storage talismans so when we reach the bottom of Wind Listening Valley, even if water is scarce, it will not affect us.”
“Right.” Kong Hou nodded repeatedly. “Elder Lin, you are so considerate.” She picked up her dress and jumped off the carriage. Looking at the nearby pond, she said to Huan Zhong, “I will go see.”
“Careful of where you step.” Huan Zhong did not feel any presence of yao beasts and cultivators nearby.
When Kong Hou went to the edge of the pond to fill water, Lin Hu looked sternly at Huan Zhong. “Master, Miss Kong Hou is a month away from turning seventeen.”
“I know.” Huan Zhong walked off the carriage with a calm expression.
“As long as you know.” Lin Hu glanced at Huan Zhong’s long legs. “Not that I wish to interfere in Master’s private matters, but Miss Kong Hou is young. If Master is too close to her, it is not good for her, and also not for you.”
“I respect her, adore her, and will not do anything detrimental to her.” Huan Zhong looked at the young girl crouching by the water with a gentle expression. “Lin Hu, no one bears to harm a beautiful person.”
Lin Hu moved his lips but still spoke the question he had hidden in his mind. “Just because she is beautiful.”
“No.” Huan Zhong shook his head and walked towards Kong Hou.
Kong Hou threw the water storage talisman into the pond. When it filled with water, she cast a spell to summon the talisman back. Turning, she saw Huan Zhong coming to her side. She put the water storage talisman into her storage ring. “Huan Zhong, do you need to store water?”
“No, I still have some in my water gourd.” Huan Zhong took a handkerchief to wipe away the water on Kong Hou’s face. “Wind Listening Valley’s winds are strong.”
“I have prepared for this. I even prepared a veil.” Kong Hou preened. She was prepared.
The young girl who needed to put on several layers of protective lotion beside the furnace did not fear winds that could damage skin in order to help him find the medicines. Huan Zhong laughed. “Kong Hou, you cannot always be this good to me.”
“Why not?” Kong Hou glared. “Do you want to break our friendship?”
“No.” Huan Zhong took her hand. “It is my great fortune to encounter Kong Hou in my life.”
“These words… “—Kong Hou’s ears turned slightly red—”are very sappy.”
“Really?” Huan Zhong stopped walking and looked at her with a gentle and warm gaze.
“All, all right.” Kong Hou felt her ears were completely red. When said by a good-looking person, even sappy things were pleasing to hear.
Huan Zhong laughed again, the deep laughter like the most beautiful music. This caused Kong Hou to only remember they were still holding hands after a long time. “Huan Zhong, did you start this habit in the secret realm? There are no succubi and illusory yao here—you do not have to protect me.”
The smile on Huan Zhong’s lips faded. He slowly released her hand, his voice hoarse. “Yes, habit… forgot to change.”
Translator Ramblings: Sect Master Rectangular … is a good person with ambition.
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