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Chapter 91: Finding Joy in Hardship
“All right, all right…” Kong Hou covered her face, her voice as weak as a mosquito’s buzz. “Then, then you cannot run ahead alone.”
Huan Zhong laughed softly and grabbed her hand. “I will walk beside you.”
“Follow behind me.” Kong Hou pulled her hand away, pointed behind her, and took the Concealment Umbrella back from Huan Zhong. “Follow closely.”
Huan Zhong looked down at his empty hand. He put his hand behind his back, put his balled up right hand to his lips and coughed fakely. “Then I will trouble Celestial Kong Hou to lead the way.”
Kong Hou: “…”
She hadn’t thought that Huan Zhong would also banter. Kong Hou turned and glared at him before flying towards the formation eye. Huan Zhong followed silently; light flashed in his hand, and the Dragon Roar sword appeared.
The boy watched as the beautiful woman and her friend flew away. His small body contained shock that did not belong to his age. Could martial experts fly higher than the city walls?
He turned his head and walked next to Lin Hu, looking at Kong Hou in the air and then looking at Lin Hu who held his sister.
“Worried for her?” Lin Hu asked.
“No”—the boy shook his head—”I am very reassured giving my sister to you.”
Even if he was not, this was his only choice for his sister to survive. He had to be reassured.
“Hold her for now.” Lin Hu saw the child was filled with worry despite his words and shoved the bundle back into his arms. “Take care of yourself. I will have to go lend a hand.”
The child carefully adjusted his grip. He found his sister looked much rosier than before and was overjoyed. Just now, when the beautiful older sister fed his sister something, he feared the other would not take his sister along if she was unhappy so he did not dare ask. Seeing his sister have a much better complexion, he guessed that the beautiful sister might have fed his sister medicine.
Did she really have a way to rescue the entire city?
He looked up at the two people in the air who had still not landed. The boy had an absurd thought—the beautiful sister… was she Immortal Kong Hou?
In the Ji Family, there were almost none that dared to state publicly they were members of the previous imperial family.
Only Princess Kong Hou who had become immortal seven years ago, and had temples built to her by the orders of the emperor, would be so free. Also, other than the divine, who would fly so freely in the sky?
Princess Kong Hou had come to save them?
The boy hugged his sister close. Had she heard their prayers?
When Kong Hou went near the eye of the formation, the powerful fiendish energy almost stopped her from breathing. Fortunately, the concealment umbrella could block the fiendish energy so she had the chance to breathe. She retreated, and held the umbrella above Huan Zhong and her own head to cover Huan Zhong. “Huan Zhong, is this formation about to form?”
“Not yet.” Huan Zhong had a dark expression as he looked at the fiendish energy spreading out of the formation. “Still not enough.”
“What is not enough?” Kong Hou had a bad feeling.
“Life,” Huan Zhong said. “This formation uses the life spans of people. Enough people have to die for the formation to form.”
Kong Hou looked at the city underneath and thought of the innocent people who had died. She said hatefully, “These animals.”
The geography of this city was strange. Four rivers passed through here, and it was surrounded by mountains, formatting a plain that looked as though it had exits but in reality was a trap. This was originally a good place easy to defend and hard to attack, but under the manipulations of the evil cultivators, it became the best choice for the Withering of Ten Thousand Bones formation.
“Let us first leave here,” Huan Zhong said. “See if we can use the rivers and mountains to destroy the formation’s foundation.”
Yes.” Kong Hou nodded slightly, her expression serious. The moment she turned, a powerful suction came from the formation eye behind her, pulling her towards the formation eye. In a blink, she was dozens of meters away.
“Kong Hou.” Huan Zhong grabbed her hand, and used the Dragon Roar sword to cut off the fiendish energy wrapped around her. He put an arm around her waist. “Let’s go.”
The eye of the formation seemed to detect cultivators close. The fiendish energy started to twist, all the surrounding energies circling around them, appearing to desire to drag them down.
“Go!” Huan Zhong looked at the Dragon Roar entangled in the fiendish energy as it hummed. He looked at the pale Kong Hou and released the sword, hugging Kong Hou with both arms as he flew outwards.
“Master, what is the sword?”
“The sword is the life of us sword cultivators. If you exist, your word exists. If the sword does not exist, you will never qualify to be a sword cultivator in your lifetime.”
“Is the sword the most important?”
“Maybe, maybe not.”
Huan Zhong closed his eyes, thinking back to the words his master had said to him when he first joined Radiance Sect. He did not have the confidence to take Kong Hou unharmed out of the Withering of Ten Thousand Bones Formation fueled by tens of thousands of lives. The Dragon Roar sword was the best bait to lure the fiendish energy.
“Huan Zhong, your sword!” Kong Hou knew what a lifebond sword meant to a sword cultivator. Looking at the Dragon Roar almost consumed by the fiendish energy, she said urgently, “The fiendish energy will damage the Dragon Roar sword.”
“No matter,” Huan Zhong said coolly. “We will leave first.”
Kong Hou looked dazedly at Huan Zhong’s side profile. She bit her lips, bleeding from the corners of her mouth as she gathered spirit energy on her hands. She shoved Huan Zhong out of the range of the fiendish energy.
Huan Zhong turned in shock, not expecting Kong Hou to do such a thing. He only saw the black fiendish energy and the weak humming of the Dragon Roar sword.
“Huan Zhong, if you dare follow, I will take your Dragon Roar sword and jump into the formation eye!” Kong Hou’s roar came from afar in the black mist. But Huan Zhong could not see her figure.
Ignoring Kong Hou’s threat, Huan Zhong turned and was about to chase her when Lin Hu suddenly appeared and stopped him.
“Move aside.” Huan Zhong waved his sleeve to sweep Lin Hu to the side. He did not expect Lin Hu, who always listened to his orders, to raise his sword and block his blow.
“Master, your spirit platform is already unstable. You also lost your lifebond sword—do you want to die?!” Lin Hu said in a low voice. “Also, you are a cultivator of Lingyou World. If you interfere too much in the matters of the mortal world, you will be touched by karma.”
The natural order of things was fated. If people of the mortal realm encountered trouble and prayed to the divine, this would cause them to only see the protection of the divine when they encountered trouble and lose their spirit to fight. In the long run, this was not good to the people.
So the cultivators of Lingyou World could conceal their identities and come to the mortal world to play, but could not interfere in the matters of the mortal world. He knew this reason, Master understood, and the other cultivators did so as well. Consequently, there were never many “appearances of the divine” in the mortal world.
Even Miss Kong Hou understood.
“I know. You do not have to persuade me.” Huan Zhong’s expression grew colder. “Lin Hu, I do not want to fight you. Move aside.”
Lin Hu grimaced, “Master, I am not willing either.” If Master fought with his full strength, he could not stop the other. “But do not forget Miss Kong Hou’s personality. She said if you enter, she will take Dragon Roar and jump into the formation eye. While you cannot completely believe her, you can believe in half of that.”
The half that was not believable was because before Miss Kong Hou jumped, she would throw Dragon Roar sword out.
The concealment umbrella could not stop the insane formation. Kong Hou put away the concealment umbrella and held the miniaturized Phoenix Head in her hand. Relying on the light of the Phoenix Head, she slowly went close to the Dragon Roar sword caught up in the fiendish energy.
In the thick fiendish energy, the Dragon Roar sword was a lantern that could make sound. Kong Hou immediately found it.
Her hands quickly moved on the strings. Kong Hou avoided the ambush of the fiendish energy and got closer to the Dragon Roar sword. The humming of the Dragon Roar grew increasingly weaker. Kong Hou’s arm passed through the fiendish energy wrapped around the sword. The fiendish energy corroded her sleeve, and the cloth turned to tatters.
The robe she wore was one that could block three attacks from a Projection expert. In this formation eye, it only managed to last for several minutes.
The Dragon Roar sword had its own intelligence and did not want anyone other than its master to touch it. So when Kong Hou touched the hilt, it gave off a great backlash. Kong Hou almost spat blood under this blow. She did not linger, pulling the Dragon Roar and running as she threw talismans. In just a few steps, she threw over a dozen talismans to avoid being pulled along with the Dragon Roar sword into the formation eye.
With the fiendish energy chasing after her, and the Dragon Roar sword uncooperative, Kong Hou grew mad. She hit the hilt of the Dragon Roar sword. “Be docile. Your master is such a good person—how can he have such a disobedient sword?!”
Dragon Roar shook twice and then did not shake so much in Kong Hou’s hands. Kong Hou panted and forced a smile. She threw some more talismans behind her. “If you continue like before, I will throw you back.”
Now the Dragon Roar sword grew completely motionless.
At this time, Kong Hou had expended almost all of her energy. Just thirty meters of distance, but she seemed to be walking with a mountain on her back, panting like an old ox. The Dragon Roar sword was so heavy she almost couldn’t grip it.
“Finished, will we really end here?” Even though her fingers were starting to tremble, Kong Hou still gripped the Dragon Roar sword. When she saw Huan Zhong swing his sword, she thought that this sword was only a few pounds. But this sword looked ordinary, its name was magnificent, and so was its weight.
Sword cultivators really did not have it easy, to swing and cut with a sword hundreds of pounds in weight and make it look so pretty. No wonder cultivators did not like offending sword cultivators. Who could afford to?
A thin wind sounded. Kong Hou instinctively dodged left. She threw the three Evil Warding Seals in her left hand along the way. After throwing the three seals, Kong Hou started to mindlessly throw seals, not even knowing what she was throwing.
“Finished…” The moment the fiendish energy wrapped around her leg, many thoughts flashed through Kong Hou’s mind. There was master, the shixiong, her friends in the sect, Huan Zhong who leaned against her shoulder and played cute, and… the people of the world.
“First there is heaven and earth, the water, and everything else, clear energy removing the turbidity; heaven and earth birth yinyang, the yinyang the two poles, the two poles the four manifestations. Life and death, all beings born to die, all those unliving never die; if one does not die, how can they comprehend life…”
The mind scripture Kong Hou had memorized in the secret realm suddenly appeared in Kong Hou’s mind when Kong Hou used her her spirit energy. Kong Hou hugged the Dragon Roar sword and murmured. “The water and everything else, the clear energy removing the turbidity…”
Looking down at the fiendish energy wrapped around her legs, Kong Hou took out a bottle of spirit liquid and poured it out. As expected, the fiendish energy unwillingly released her. Taking the chance, she shoved a handful of energy condensing pills into her mouth and gathered her energy to charge.
She felt she had never been as fast as she was today.
Seeing the fiendish energy coming near her again, she did not know what she thought as she swung the Dragon Roar sword towards the fiendish energy. Just as she thought the Dragon Roar sword would ignore her, the sword gave a long roar. A shadow of a golden dragon appeared and tangled with the fiendish energy from the eye of the formation.
Hearing the dragon roar, Lin Hu, who was grappling with Huan Zhong, couldn’t help but turn to look. Seeing the golden dragon shadow coiled in the black mist, he said in shock, “Master, your Dragon Roar sword…”
Huan Zhong kicked him off the clouds. “Lin Hu, if the Withering of Ten Thousand Bones Formation takes form, the people of the mortal world will be buried with it, and many cultivators of Lingyou World will have mental demons due to the fiendish energy. Do not forget the aim of setting this formation is to target Lingyou World. I do not touch the karma of the mortal world, but this is to stop a calamity that will pull in the mortal world and Lingyou World.”
He turned and flew into the fiendish energy.
“Did you grow up eating spirit energy?” Kong Hou had been able to breathe before. Now she could not breathe holding the Dragon Roar sword. Such a magnificent sword was not suited to her. She liked the more beautiful, easier to use Water Frost sword that did not demand so much spirit energy.
Dragon Roar shook again.
“Do not mind such a thing at this time.” Kong Hou channeled spirit energy. As a pentad spirit base cultivator, she used her innate talent to control the water spirit in the air and managed to block the fiendish energy outside the water boundary.
“When I joined the sect, I dreamed I can cultivate and ascend. But I did not manage to ascend and might become fertilizer for an evil formation.” Kong Hou sighed and took out a sound seal. In the mortal world, a message seal could not reach Lingyou World. She could only leave a letter for Huan Zhong and hope he would help deliver it when the time came.
Yet before she could use the message seal, a white-robed man flew through the thick mist. Seeing her, he threw out two divine talismans, held Kong Hou, and then charged away.
The fiendish energy invaded his body. The spirit energy in Huan Zhong’s spirit platform moved disorderly in all directions. He looked behind at the fiendish energy giving chase and waved his hand. His powerful presence spread. Within his arms, Kong Hou could not tolerate a presence of this level and almost threw up blood.
Was this Huan Zhong’s true strength?
Huan Zhong had a calm expression but his organs were in turmoil. He sent multiple blows behind him, holding Kong Hou with one arm and flew even faster. The moment they left the eye of the formation, he threw out eight talismans to eight different places to control the formation eye and stop it from expanding.
He took out a cloak from his storage ring and wrapped it around Kong Hou. Huan Zhong finally could not endure, and fell from the sky with Kong Hou after throwing up blood.
The moment before the fall, he wrapped Kong Hou securely in his arms.
The pair hit the ground heavily.
Huan Zhong lay on the ground, face up, with no composure to speak of. He had never been so disheveled and embarrassed as today.
Lin Hu, whom he had kicked to the ground, stood up using his sword and slowly walked towards the pair.
“Huan Zhong.” Kong Hou lifted her head and raised up the Dragon Roar sword in her hand. The blood at the corner of her lips was still wet. Her eyes were bright. “I got the Dragon Roar sword back for you.”
She casually touched her lips with the back of her hand. The blood smeared on her face and caused her face to look both ugly and dirty.
Of course, Huan Zhong was not much better. He, who was usually dressed in white, now had robes stained with blood and mud from the ground. His white coronet had disappeared, his hair splayed out on the dirty ground, but his hair was still very smooth.
He looked at the young girl smiling at him with a bloodied face. He reached to hug her tightly.
In this moment, the warmth and truth in his arms were eternal.
Smelling the faint medicinal scent on Huan Zhong’s body, Kong Hou felt she seemed to hear Huan Zhong’s heartbeat. The clothing fabric was very smooth and soft, but Kong Hou felt her face was warm and itchy. She wanted to cover her face.
“Huan Zhong, are you playing cute to me again?”
Huan Zhong’s chin was on top of her head. She could not see his expression and only heard Huan Zhong say, “I have internal wounds; it is uncomfortable.”
Kong Hou did not dare to move and stayed in Huan Zhong’s arms. She said in puzzlement, “Aren’t you more uncomfortable with me on top of you?” Huan Zhong’s tactics of playing cute were very basic. This position was awkward, and he would be in discomfort.
A moment of silence later, Huan Zhong said depressedly, “No.”
Kong Hou thought for a moment. “Yes, I am much lighter than Dragon Roar sword.”
The Dragon Roar sword which had been forgotten on the ground hummed lightly. Kong Hou looked at the dusty Dragon Roar sword on the ground and felt it was amusing. She laughed out loud.
Huan Zhong loosened his arms from around Kong Hou and patted her back softly.
Lin Hu stopped walking. He saw the young girl on the man’s chest as she laughed, and the man softly patting her back silently. This clearly was the dirty ground, but they made it seem like this was a field of flowers.
“What are you laughing about?”
“I don’t know, I just feel it is funny.” She laughed as she talked. She turned and copied Huan Zhong, lying on the ground, and looked at the temporarily locked Withering of Ten Thousand Bones Formation in the sky.
Maybe she was happy at having gotten back the Dragon Roar sword, or that Huan Zhong came through the darkness when she had no more energy left, or…
Kong Hou looked at Huan Zhong. Huan Zhong was coincidentally looking at her. Their eyes met and they smiled.
She had never seen Huan Zhong so disheveled before. She should say thank you or feel guilty, but she just found it amusing. The mud on their bodies was amusing. Their loose hair was amusing. Hugging her and playing cute was… adorable and amusing.
The wind rose and the sand blew in their faces.
Kong Hou took out two energy-condensing pills from her storage ring and gave one each to Huan Zhong and herself. Their spirit energy slowly recovered. “Huan Zhong, just now, I saw a small formation in the formation eye.”
A formation within a formation, using one formation to nourish another, this was a malicious method. The formation creator did not plan to let anyone near the formation eye survive. She was able to survive because she had thrown out large amounts of talismans. Later, if Huan Zhong had not come to help, she would not have managed to leave.
Fortunately, she had been daring in going near the formation eye and discovered this. Otherwise, if they had used the mountains and rivers to defeat the formation, the outer formation would be defeated, but the formation inside might have become activated. She did not dare think of what consequences there would have been.
“What kind of formation?” Huan Zhong asked.
“I do not know,” Kong Hou said. “However, I remember the general shape of the formation. I will draw it for you later.”
“All right.” The two looked silently at each other and did not speak.
Lin Hu could not bear it and walked next to them. “Have you laid on the ground enough? Everyone is watching.”
Kong Hou sat up and saw many people standing by nearby. However, these people did not seem to be spectating but were excited. She stood up, holding the cloak to her and hid behind Huan Zhong.
Her dusty and dirty state was not suitable to be seen by others.
“Immortals!” The provincial governor squeezed out of the crowd, his clothing wrinkled. He bowed first to the boy holding the baby, then to Kong Hou and the others. “Immortals, do you have a residence? If you do not mind, you can reside for a few days at the Provincial Governor Residence.”
From when the plague started until now, he was the third provincial governor, the other two having passed away from the plague. He looked at the boy holding the baby. This young master was the child of the first provincial governor. A fortnight ago, the previous provincial governor and his wife had passed away in succession. The young master had stayed alone in this room with the month-old child. He wanted to have the children live with him, but the young master only spoke through the door and did not show his face.
Guessing the young master feared that the plague would infect him if he was in contact with too many people, he did not try to persuade otherwise, and only sent food to the siblings every few days.
“No need.” Huan Zhong was still the cold and stoic sword cultivator in front of others. “When the plague is resolved, we will leave.”
The provincial governor did not press for fear of displeasing the immortal.
The crowd was in a furor. Some were joyous, some laughing and others crying. A woman holding a two-year-old child looked timidly at Kong Hou. “Immortal, are you Princess Kong Hou?”
Their pain, their begging—Immortal Kong Hou had heard them and descended to rescue them?
Translator Ramblings: Dragon Roar is like a dog meeting his new co-owner.
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