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Chapter 87: Have You Been Well?
“Greetings, Immortal.” Emperor Jinghong and the crown prince saw the aloof expression of the white-robed immortal and did not find it strange. In the imaginations of ordinary people, immortals were high up in the sky, so when they appeared with proud attitudes, no one would find it insulting.
Everyone, including the emperor, thought this.
Huan Zhong’s appearance caused everyone to feel the “immortals” were even more mysterious and they felt even more reverence. When Lin Hu put away the jade ship and landed, almost no one dared to look directly at him. He silently followed behind Huan Zhong and looked toward the southeast.
Resentment and fiendish energies seemed to come from that direction. Were cultivators doing evil in the mortal world?
But seeing Master and Miss Kong Hou remain silent, Lin Hu looked away and pretended not to discover this.
“Immortals, please come this way.” The crown prince bowed and gestured in invitation. As the master of the eastern palace, he had not bowed humbly to other people for many years. But his actions flowed easily as though he revered the three cultivators.
Kong Hou glanced at him. He had proper features, his brow clear. He had the face of a wise monarch. The crown prince was more than a decade older than her, so when she had been a puppet princess in the inner palace, she rarely encountered the crown prince. Even if they met at banquets, the crown prince would politely call her princess and never harassed her due to her status as a princess of the previous dynasty.
Kong Hou did not plan to embarrass this benevolent and virtuous crown prince. She nodded and then descended the altar. The officials kneeling on the ground saw her and all moved backwards on their knees to make a wide path for her.
The long tail of her dress swept past like the river stones under the moonlight with cold and superior beauty.
Underneath the Astronomy tower, the moment the jade ship appeared, the guards could not help but kneel. When they saw the crown prince come with the immortals, they wanted to peek but did not dare. After the group passed, they dared to lift their heads and peek.
“Did you see?”
“I only saw the shoes of the immortal. Immortal’s shoes are so beautiful—they glow, and are untouched by dust.”
“That dress is also beautiful. If the niangniang in the palace saw it, they would be tempted.”
“If it was other people never mind, but this is the immortal. Even the most favored noble consort would not be so daring as to copy the clothing of immortals.”
Kong Hou had left this palace for seven years. At the time, she had felt the imperial palace was both large and stern, unescapable for her entire life. When she saw this imperial palace again, she found that some walls had marks of rain streaking down. Some floor tiles were cracked. The tall walls were not tall. When she looked down from the sky, the palace seemed to be like a speck, so small it was almost invisible.
The gates were open. The center path supposedly was one only the emperor could take. Even the empress would only have such an honor on her crowning ceremony. Yet today, the emperor, the crown prince, and even the court officials welcomed her to step onto this path.
She clearly did not care anymore about the past, but when she stepped on this path, Kong Hou still felt as though she had been released from her chains. She stopped and looked towards the sign on the palace.
Huan Zhong saw her suddenly stop and looked at her. “What is it?”
“When I was six”—Kong Hou pointed towards the gates—”I was protected by an attendant and fled behind this door. But I was unlucky and found by the patrol who took me back.”
Huan Zhong could destroy this copper door with a flick of his sleeve. But for Kong Hou, who had been six at the time, these were the gates to freedom. If she escaped, from then on, she could hide herself in the wide world. If she did not, she would face death or imprisonment.
The soft words spoken now were the hopelessness of her childhood.
When she stepped back here, Kong Hou felt that she was making it back up to that scared little girl back then.
The crown prince bowed deeper from where he had been leading the way. He feared if he made any sound, he would cause Kong Hou’s hate.
When they passed the red copper doors, the crown prince wanted to walk faster, but the three immortals behind him did not seem to detect his urgency. They walked slowly and even spoke of the past.
The blood on the walls had long been washed away. Kong Hou remembered that night many people died, and the spraying blood had dyed the palace walls. In reality, when she heard the countless payers, she had still hesitated about coming to the mortal world. Then she received a flying message seal from Pavilion Master Sun.
Pavilion Master Sun said he had make a reading for her. She carried sin on her.
This sin was not because of her, but due to her father-emperor, the desposed Ji Emperor.
The deposed Ji Emperor had been incompetent and unwise. The court sold offices and titles for money, the unscrupulous officials sucking the blood of the people. A portion of the wealth entered their pockets, but more went into the Ji Emperor’s personal stores. As the daughter of the deposed Ji Emperor, Kong Hou had enjoyed the rank of princess. Kong Hou had also used what the deposed Ji Emperor had taken. Regardless of whether she knew the facts, she had benefited.
If she could not rid herself of this sin, when Kong Hou wanted to enter Mind Manifestation Stage later, it would be harder than climbing heaven.
Because of Pavilion Master Sun’s letter and Kong Hou’s own guilt concerning the people of the mortal realm, she still decided to come to the mortal realm. After this matter, she would break all ties with the mortal world.
They followed the crown prince to the Phoenix Palace. The Phoenix Palace was where the empress dowagers of the Ji Dynasty had lived. When Emperor Jinghong had taken the throne, his birth mother had already passed away so the Phoenix Palace had been locked up.
This palace had a good meaning, and their past mistresses all had high status, so the crown prince specially arranged for Kong Hou to live here.
“Thank you , Your Highness, but you do not have to arrange other palaces for them. They can live in the other palace halls.” Kong Hou interrupted the crown prince. “If Your Highness does not object, you can tell me what has happened in the mortal world.”
“Yes.” The crown prince had not expected immortals to be so informal that different genders could live in the same palace. But seeing all three immortals appear unconcerned, he did not dare speak of it. He took the opportunity to speak of the plague.
“The medicines are ineffective. Even if the ill are in quarantine, infection still occurs. Even the wind helps… ” Kong Hou frowned. If the plague had a chance to spread on the wind, not just the neighbouring cities, but as time passed, the entire country could be shrouded by this illness.
How could there be such a strong plague in the mortal world?
“Where is the plague the most serious?” Kong Hou asked.
“In the southeastern cities.” The crown prince saw Kong Hou willing to act in this matter and was overjoyed. “I and the others will do our best to match any medicines Immortal needs.”
“The Southeast…” Kong Hou turned to look at Lin Hu. “Elder Lin, may I trouble you to take a look for me?”
“Immortal, Father Emperor is hosting a banquet in the Black Turtle Palace and hopes that the immortals will attend.”
“There is more than an hour to noon—there is enough time.” Lin Hu glanced at the sky and flew out, turning into a streak of light that disappeared on the horizon.
Before the crown prince could say, Immortals, please rest, he saw the light disappear. He gaped. A long while later, he murmured, “Really immortal magic.”
Kong Hou ignored him. At this time, none of the officials were present and she was too lazy to give the crown prince face. She reached to search in her storage ring and took out a bottle of spirit fluid. She poured a few drops on the ground.
“This is…” Seeing Kong Hou ignore him, the crown prince was not discouraged. He had already knelt, the other things were minor.
“Spirit fluid,” Kong Hou said. “Your constitution is fragile. When Elder Lin returns from the plague area, he will have some of the local things on him. What if you are infected?”
“Thank you, Immortal.” The crown prince was moved, and hadn’t expected Kong Hou to be so considerate to notice a minor thing like this.
“Do not thank me.” Kong Hou’s tone was aloof. “You will be a good emperor in the future. I just do not want you to die and cause more trouble for the thousands of people.”
Her words were not polite. The crown prince’s smile froze slightly but he quickly understood. Immortal Kong Hou saying this clearly expressed that she did not care at all that the Ji Dynasty had been destroyed. As a member of the imperial house, he could not avoid overthinking. He even heard a slight threat from Kong Hou’s words.
Because he would be a good emperor in the future, she would take care of him. What if he wasn’t?
Some words could not be said too baldly and could not be asked. The crown prince bowed and said, “Immortal, please wait and watch.”
Kong Hou raised an eyebrow but did not speak.
She and Huan Zhong sat at the front of the table, and the crown prince at the side. The mood gradually became awkward. The crown prince attempted to speak and make the atmosphere better but one was not willing to speak at all, and the other only responded with a few perfunctory words. The crown prince thought if he continued to talk, the two would think him too chatty.
But if he did not speak and the three sat in silence like this, would it not be more awkward?
Coincidentally, a palace attendant came to report the banquet was prepared. His Majesty and the empress were waiting for the three immortals.
“Please ask Father-Emperor and Mother-Empress to wait a few moments. We will come later.” The crown prince sighed in relief. This silent awkwardness would finally end.
“His Majesty and niangniang do not have to be so polite. After this, my karma with the mortal world will end, and I will not appear in the future.” Karma feared that the people and the officials would start relying on her, so whenever they encountered hardship in the future, they would only know to beg divinity and pray rather than strengthening themselves. “So whether or not you are friendly, I will help you this time. Life and death are natural matters of the world. You have to rely on yourselves in the future.”
The crown prince grimaced. “I understand.”
If begging and praying worked, then why hadn’t any immortals appeared in the past days?
Immortal Kong Hou was willing to appear because she had once been a member of this country and had feelings towards the people here.
Yet the mortal and the divine were not the same, and Immortal Kong Hou could not always help them. This would go against the rules of the world, and easily cause the people to develop the habit of praying when they encountered trouble.
This was good. The crown prince smiled. Born as mortals, they had to work hard and rely on themselves.
The wind blew. The crown prince turned back and suddenly saw the person Ji Kong Hou called Elder Lin appear in front of him. He opened his mouth. “The abilities of immortals are great.”
Lin Hu said coolly, “Just a trifle, that’s all.”
The capital was over a thousand miles away from the location of the plague. If one journeyed day and night on a carriage, they would need more than a fortnight to arrive. And the immortal… only needed an hour.
“Elder Lin, please change, and we will attend the banquet,” Kong Hou saw many palace attendants standing outside and said to Lin Hu, “We will talk about the plague after the banquet.”
“Yes.” Lin Hu nodded. He glanced at the crown prince and then went into the palace to change his clothes.
“Immortal, please walk this way.” The crown prince led the way. Red carpet had been rolled out in front of them, the female attendants holding jars, fans and incense. This rivaled the treatment for an emperor.
In the main hall, the court officials and the members of the imperial house sat solemnly, all looking outside the hall.
Hearing the crown prince’s voice, everyone bowed their heads to show their respect to the immortals.
Stepping on the golden bricks, Kong Hou walked into the large hall. Her smile was faint and neutral as she looked at these powerful officials who did not dare to lift their heads.
Her gaze moved and she saw the grand princess sitting in the corner with a lowered head.
“Long time no see—has Grand Princess been well?” Kong Hou asked.
Her voice was pleasing like the ringing of jade beads.
But everyone thought of seven years ago when the grand princess had forced Immortal Kong Hou to play the konghou in front of them.
Translator Ramblings: Everyone is going through an adjustment period …
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