This chapter has been brought to you by me, and Adnana.
Chapter 101: No
People rarely walked the mountain paths to Splendid Cloud Sect. The people with lower cultivation in the sect would buy steeds that could fly. Disciples who did not reach Base Building would have to be accompanied by other members who were Base Building or above.
The limestone paths were covered in grass and formed an undisturbed world. Dots of sunlight passed through cracks in the leaves and left marks of light on the limestone.
Kong Hou had joined the sect for seven years and never walked this path. It gave her a sense of unfamiliar novelty. “Tan Feng Shixiong told me about this path. When Splendid Cloud Sect was first founded, the disciples in the sect mostly had low cultivation and built this path for the disciples to go up and down the mountain. Later, as the disciples increased in number, more had high cultivation, and less people walked this path. But to remember the past hardship, the sect will fix this road every few decades. This is a path that Splendid Cloud Sect made from nothing.” Kong Hou turned back to look at the steep mountain path. Thousands of years ago, the sect ancestors had relied on this path to create Splendid Cloud Sect’s lands.
Huan Zhong listened silently. Compared to Splendid Cloud Sect’s rise from poverty, Radiance Sect’s founding was much more noble. The founding of Radiance Sect was due to several powerful sword cultivators that felt their skilled swordsmanship should not decline and fall to obscurity after they ascended. So they threw around talismans and spirit stones to create the vast sect.
Because the buildings of the sect were refined and as beautiful as crystal, they called it Radiance Sect. Ordinary people saw the disciples of Radiance Sect and would call them Radiance Sword Transcendents.
The founding of Radiance Sect and Splendid Cloud Sect were completely different. Radiance Sect was able to stand for so many years and steadily hold onto the position of top sect—which seemed easy, but was actually a very difficult matter. Splendid Cloud Sect also had a path of hardship to become one of the top ten sects from an unknown minor sect.
In the past, he did not understand. As he grew up, he understood. Any sect that survived the attack of the evil cultivators on the cultivation world in the past had their unique attributes.
“Your sect is very great.” Huan Zhong slowly walked on the path like he was strolling in the mist. He looked upwards. He feared there were several people who were peeking at them from then to now.
“Of course.” Kong Hou’s face was bright when she mentioned her sect. She did not forget to flatter Radiance Sect. “Radiance Sect is also great.”
It was easy to conquer lands, but it was difficult to hold them. Radiance Sect had passed down for so many years and had such high status in the cultivation world. This required each generation of sect masters to have great self-control, as well as ability. This was a great test of the sect.
Kong Hou wanted to know—had a stern sect like Radiance Sect ever produced an unreliable sword cultivator?
She was preparing to ask when several fruit husks fell from the sky. She pulled out Water Frost Sword and pointed at the seemingly empty sky. “If you keep looking, I will be angry. Scatter.”
The clouds above rolled, and quickly recovered as though nothing had happened.
Water Frost Sword turned back into a hairpin. Kong Hou put it back into her hair and smiled embarrassedly at Huan Zhong and Lin Hu. “The juniors of the sect are not very mature.”
“No matter.” Huan Zhong smiled and looked towards the air. When Kong Hou spoke, the people hiding behind the clouds all left. No one had stayed shamelessly. “The disciples of your sect are very… lively.”
“I told you to not go, but you did. You will suffer for offending an apprentice.” Gui Ling jumped off the crane, saw the other fellow members still chattering with excitement and sighed.
Did these people have brains? That was an apprentice, a pentad spirit base genius. If she was unhappy and said something, would they have any good days?
“Gui Ling Shidi, you think too much. Kong Hou Shijie was joking with us. She is such a good person, she won’t do such a thing.” Li Rou covered her face and said with awe, “Kong Hou Shijie is so good-looking, has such a good voice, and even the sword cultivator she conned back is so good-looking. There is nothing that Kong Hou Shijie cannot do.”
Gui Ling: “…”
“Yes, and also taking in Five Flavors Manor. Even the sect master hadn’t been able to persuade Spirit Master Bai An to join out sect. But Kong Hou Shijie with her invincible charisma got Five Flavors Manor to join our sect, and greatly changed our food level. This is a merit that will be known throughout history.” Gao Jian Yan touched his protruding belly. “It is my greatest good fortune to join Splendid Cloud Sect.”
“Gao Shixiong, when you were at home, you did not like to read?” Gui Ling asked expressionlessly.
Gao Jian Yan embarrassedly touched his face. “You see even this. Gui Ling *Shidi, you are amazing.”
Gui Ling: “…”
This sect was finished. Look at what disciples they accepted!
In the main hall of Splendid Cloud Sect, Heng Yan, as the sect master, was personally welcoming the sect masters and peak masters who had come. Previously, he had not expected that some sect masters would come in person to Cheng Yi’s Mind Manifestation ceremony. He couldn’t help but suspect, was this becauses Radiance Sect had recently sent gifts to them frequently?
He was puzzled by Radiance Sect’s recent conduct. Fortunately, their sect master Jin Yue was an old man. Otherwise, he would suspect that Jin Yue had taken a fancy to one of the female cultivators of his sect. Otherwise, why be so solicitous?
This time, when the invitations for Cheng Yi’s ceremony were sent out, Peak Master Song He of Radiance Sect came with his eldest disciple with gifts, even more attentive than those minor sects. Even more terrifying was Song He would frequently smile at him when they discussed the path and would compliment Splendid Cloud Sect’s disciples.
Had he been possessed by someone else?
“These recent disciples are more and more disappointing, and there are only two single spirit base disciples among the disciples from last year. They do not have as much talent as the previous disciples.” Sect Master Shuang Qing who came in person shook his head and sighed, “Us, as the elders, can only worry more.”
These words seemed to be a lament, but were actually a boast. Right now, the cultivation world was really one year inferior to the last. Primary Luck Sect was not among the top ten sects but was able to have two single spirit base disciples. They could boast about this for five decades.
“You cannot say it like this.” Song He who usually rarely spoke when there were many people said, “I find that Miss Kong Hou who Splendid Cloud Sect accepted a few years ago is very good. Talented and intelligent, and also has great courage; she is a rare one.”
“Yes.” The elder from Cool Breeze Sect immediately added, “When disciples of my sect were being chased by evil cultivators, they only managed to escape due to Celestial Kong Hou and Spirit Master Huan Zhong’s help. Such goodness is the hope of the future.”
“Yes, yes.” Pavilion Master Sun of Auspicious Pavilion nodded. “Celestial Kong Hou’s talent is extraordinary.”
Spirit Master Shuang Qing turned around his rectangular head and pretended to drink tea. He felt great hatred inside. These bootlickers! He swallowed the tea and said to Song He, “Your sect’s Spirit Master Huan Zhong has great cultivation and swordsmanship. I feel less able than him.”
“No, he only relies on his talent. He is not as intelligent as Celestial Kong Hou.” Song He flattered Kong Hou, then felt that he should not beat down his shizhi in front of Splendid Cloud Sect. He hurriedly said, “The child’s best trait is being reliable and having a good temper. He found a few secret realms when young, went in them to explore and managed to gather some wealth. Us, as elders, just hope that juniors can live well, and demand nothing else.”
Was Peak Master Song He of Radiance Sect ill? He praised the disciple of Radiance Sect, but this peak master turned and said that his disciple was not as good as a young girl of Splendid Cloud Sect who had not yet cultivated for a decade?
Was there some secret transaction between Song He and Splendid Cloud Sect?
Shuang Qing controlled himself and did not bear to speak negatively about Kong Hou. He would pull down Splendid Cloud Sect sooner or later. But that young girl… all right, debts to their own, he had principles.
“We are finally here.” Kong Hou looked at the gate of Splendid Cloud Sect and wiped the sweat off her forehead. She turned and smiled at Huan Zhong. “Let me take you in.”
Lin Hu: “…”
His existence was so weak that he wasn’t even included.
As the three walked to the gate, five people jumped off their flying swords. Kong Hou looked back at the arrivals. It was the four disciples of Nine Phoenix Sect and an old person dressed in blue robes.
Was this the peak master of Nine Phoenix Sect? But yesterday in the inn, this old person had not appeared.
Kong Hou was correct—he peak master of Nine Phoenix Sect had arrived later. Ling Yue and the others did not travel with Kong Hou after meeting them at the mountain base to wait for this peak master to arrive. Originally, Nine Phoenix Sect did not arrange for a peak master to come. When they heard that Radiance Sect and Clear Dawn Sect all sent peak masters, and even Quiet Peace Temple sent disciples, they hurriedly sent a peak master after Ling Yue and the others.
In terms of interacting with others, they could lose to anyone except Clear Dawn Sect.
The greatest coincidence in the world was that sects that were at odds would frequently meet coincidentally, for example, Clear Dawn Sect and Nine Phoenix Sect. When the group of Nine Phoenix Sect landed, a flying palace floated over. Walking out of the flying palace was a peak master of Clear Dawn Sect and their sect eldest disciple Chang De.
The two peak masters’ gazes met, and the peak master of Nine Phoenix Sect laughed falsely. “Long time no see. Everyone is still so elegant.”
The peak master of Clear Dawn Sect heard this. Was this mocking them for not having advanced in their cultivation? He laughed softly. “No no, not as good as your sect.”
“Your sect is still so humble.” The peak master of Nine Phoenix Sect glanced at Chang De. “Virtuous Nephew is already at full Core Formation; you should be reaching Mind Manifestation soon.”
The peak master of Clear Dawn Sect smirked coldly. “Thank you for your concern. During cultivation, one should not rush. I heard a few days ago that your sect wants to matchmake one of your disciples with Spirit Master Zhong Xi of Radiance Sect. Is it true?”
The peak master of Nine Phoenix Sect changed expression. “The matters of juniors depend on karma. Us elders will not be matchmakers. When does the cultivation world do such things as blind marriages?”
“As long as they are just rumors.” The peak master of Clear Dawn Sect smiled comfortingly. “Virtuous Niece Ling Yue is talented, and Spirit Master Zhong Xi is a genius. They are all great talents of their sect. How can someone spread these nonsense rumors about them?”
[Spirit Master Zhong Xi and Celestial Ling Yue intend to marry?] Kong Hou had not expected to hear such astounding gossip and spoke to Huan Zhong using a sound spell. [If Spirit Master Zhong Xi has a good appearance, since the two both have great swordsmanship, they are suited…]
“Not suited!” Huan Zhong interrupted Kong Hou’s sound art and said, “Spirit Master Zhong Xi and Ling Yue have never met—what suitability is there to speak of?”
Kong Hou stilled. Huan Zhong seemed very unhappy about this.
Huan Zhong did not conceal any of his words, and caused the two peak masters to look at him. The expression of Nine Phoenix Sect’s peak master darkened, but he still maintained his smile in front of so many people. “This peak master is?”
Ling Yue had noticed Kong Hou, Huan Zhong, and Lin Hu already and she was surprised hearing Huan Zhong suddenly speak up. This cold man was not one who meddled in other people’s business. Why would he act rashly when two peak masters were talking?
Peak master Qing Yuan who was responsible for welcoming guests saw Nine Phoenix Sect and Clear Dawn Sect’s group from afar and sighed inside. How did these two sects get together?
“Path Friends Zhi He and Ming Zhai, thank you for coming with your disciples. This one has slacked in welcoming you; please forgive me,” Qing Yuan said with a smile. “Why stand here—please enter, please enter.”
He clapped his hands and a row of cranes flew over and stood gently in front of everyone. “Please.”
“Congratulations to your sect for another Mind Manifestation forebear. Your juniors are astounding.” Peak Master Ming Zhai of Clear Dawn Sect spoke first. “Path Friend Qing Yuan doesn’t need to be so polite. Please.”
“Please.” Qing Yuan bowed to the two people again.
The other disciples bowed to the elders. Qing Yuan turned and looked into the corner, surprise on his face. “Kong Hou Shizhi?”
“Shishu.” Kong Hou came forward with a smile and bowed to Qing Yuan. “Shishu, have you been well recently?”
“Good, good, good.” Qing Yuan examined Kong Hou repeatedly. She had grown taller, and also more beautiful. He looked towards the two male cultivators behind Kong Hou, and his expression grew serious. Of the two, the one in black robes had Mind Manifestation Stage cultivation. The handsome young master in white robes appeared like a mortal at first glance, but when he looked again, he felt the other was extraordinary. He had full Mind Manifestation cultivation but could not see what cultivation the other had. The other was more powerful than him. “Path Friends, you are?”
“Shishu, these are two friends I made when travelling. Elder Lin Hu of Radiance Sect, and an apprentice of Radiance Sect, Huan Zhong. I invited them to attend Shixiong‘s Mind Manifestation ceremony.” Kong Hou smiled as she said to Huan Zhong and Lin Hu, “Huan Zhong, Elder Lin, this is the peak master of Splendid Cloud Sect’s Daybreak Cloud Peak, Qing Yuan Shishu.”
“Junior greets Qing Yuan Shishu and congratulates your sect’s disciple for his great advancement.” Huan Zhong bowed elegantly and flawlessly.
“So it is a high-ranking disciple of Radiance Sect.” Qing Yuan smiled and said, “Trouble for you to come. Please”
“Thank you, Shishu.” Huan Zhong stood and walked next to Kong Hou.
The cultivation world did not put much importance on the separation of genders. Cultivators made friends all over—when did they care about gender? Qing Yuan did not overthink and summoned three cranes, ordering Kong Hou to take good care of those in her generation.
Chang De bowed to Kong Hou, and Kong Hou returned the greeting. With elders present, they could not say too many pleasantries.
The disciples of Nine Phoenix Sect were slightly shocked. These two were really Celestial Kong Hou and Spirit Master Huan Zhong? Spirit Master Huan Zhong was a sword cultivator of Radiance Sect. He and Celestial Kong Hou…
“So fish and bird can really have children,” Jing Yuan murmured. “This Celestial Kong Hou is powerful.”
Ling Yue couldn’t help but glance more at Kong Hou. This little girl looked like a fragrant and sweet spirit fruit when she smiled. No wonder even a sword cultivator like Spirit Master Huan Zhong could not avoid liking her. If she was a man, she could not avoid liking this young girl.
Peak Master Ming Zhai of Clear Dawn Sect glanced at Peak Master Zhi He of Nine Phoenix Sect. Spirit Master Huan Zhong had stated that Spirit Master Zhong Xi and a disciple of Nine Phoenix Sect were not suitable. Nine Phoenix Sect’s plan would most likely fail.
Peak Master Zhi He glared back. With Clear Dawn Sect’s personality, he knew what they thought at this moment.
Qing Yuan, leading the way, looked back several times at Huan Zhong and found him familiar to the eye. Thinking for a long time, he thought of three centuries ago. Sect Master Jin Yue’s disciple became the first disciple in the cultivation world to reach Base Building in three years, so he had gone to give his congratulations. For the cultivation world, any disciple with a chance at ascension was their mutual hope.
That disciple called Zhong Xi had been a half-grown child, but his movements were elegant and noble, nothing that could be picked at. That person had looked very similar to Huan Zhong.
It appeared Sect Master Jin Yue’s standard for selecting disciples was—good-looking, well-mannered, and talented. He really hadn’t thought that the stern and dignified Sect Master Jin Yue was a man who judged a book by the cover.
The cranes carried the guests to land outside the front hall. Huan Zhong looked at the light on the roof of the hall and took a deep breath.
“Huan Zhong, is something wrong?” Kong Hou found that Huan Zhong’s face was pale and sneaked a squeeze of his hand. Even his fingertips were cold. What happened?
Huan Zhong slowly shook his head and looked at Kong Hou with his beautiful large eyes. “Kong Hou, if I lied to you on a minor matter, will you be angry with me?”
Kong Hou thought and said hesitantly, “You hid Talented Author’s new book and didn’t give it to me?”
That would truly be outrageous.
“No, I…” Before Huan Zhong could speak, he was interrupted by Peak Master Zhi He.
“Path Friend Ming Zhai, rather than worry about the minor matters of my humble sect, how about you spend more effort on your disciples’ cultivation?” Zhi He said mockingly. “An union is decided by the participants. Spirit Master Zhong Xi is not here, and his willingness depends on him and the disciple of my humble sect—don’t you think so?”
“Shishu,” Ling Yue said, “we should go in.”
If this continued, no one would look good.
Peak Master Ming Zhai did not truly dare to anger Zhi He. This was Splendid Cloud Sect’s territory, other sect members were here, and this was not a place to fight.
Kong Hou turned and saw Huan Zhong preparing to speak for Zhong Xi again. She pulled his sleeve and put a finger to her mouth. “Ssh, let’s not speak.” Nine Phoenix Sect and Clear Dawn Sect were fighting. Let them fight. If Huan Zhong spoke, Radiance Sect would be pulled in as well. That was not profitable.
Huan Zhong looked at Kong Hou. He wanted to speak but suppressed the urge and said, “All right.”
Qing Yuan pretended not to see the friction between Zhi He and Ming Zhai, leading the group into the main hall. Guests from other sects were inside the hall. After a round of greetings, the entire hall became busy.
As everyone talked, Huan Zhong and Song He’s eyes met. Song He almost jumped out of his chair. This child was so daring. He dared to come with Celestial Kong Hou to Splendid Cloud Sect.
Even if he was at the peak of his cultivation, he could not defeat the protective peak masters and elders of Splendid Cloud Sect, much less now when he only had sixty percent of his power.
This was their fault, for having this child cultivate and practice the sword all day, forgetting to let him understand how to interact with other people. This was sending him to his death!
Heng Yan saw Kong Hou return and was very happy. But when he saw the white-robed young master behind her, his hand shook as he held the tea cup. He silently wiped away the tea. He blinked his eyes and confirmed his eyes were not going bad.
Wasn’t this the cultivation genius, one in a thousand years, Spirit Master Zhong Xi who could kill evil cultivators above his level, causing all evil cultivators to shiver, and could stop children crying at night? What did Kong Hou do outside the sect that she brought back someone like this who was rarely seen in public?
“Junior greets Sect Master.” Huan Zhong gave the bow of a junior under Heng Yan’s shocked gaze.
“Virtuous Nephew, no need to be so polite.” Heng Yan forced a smile. He turned to look at Song He. Song He looked up and squeezed out a smile towards him.
Heng Yan: “…”
Kong Hou pulled Huan Zhong to sit at the rear filled with the juniors of the sects. Heng Yan could not bear this any more. Kong Hou was usually very clever—why was she suddenly stupid today? Zhong Xi was the master of a peak in Radiance Sect. Letting a peak master sit with those disciples was a slight.
“Virtuous Nephew has come from far, please sit up.” Heng Yan made a motion of invitation.
“Thank you, Sect master; this junior and Kong Hou are good friends and will sit with her.” Huan Zhong bowed again as a junior and returned to Kong Hou’s side.
Seeing he was willing, Heng Yan did not force the issue. After more courtesies, he had the disciples lead the new guests to residences to rest.
When the guests all left, Heng Yan had a grave expression. “Wu Chuan, what are Radiance Sect’s intentions? Because we gave the merpeople scale, they think we have other good things?”
Wu Chuan thought for a moment and shook his head. “With Radiance Sect’s morals, they do not appear to be people who will do something like this.”
“Then what do they want?” Heng Yan’s eyes lit up. “Is it…”
“Supposedly, Nine Phoenix Sect has intentions of growing closer to Radiance Sect. Do they want Zhong Xi and Ling Yue to meet and interact with each other?”
Wu Chuan realized. “So that’s how it is.”
In another courtyard, Song He looked at Peak Master Zhi He who appeared of his own initiative. “Path Friend Zhi He just said you had something to discuss—is it news of the evil cultivators?”
Zhi He shook his head. “This one has no news of evil cultivator, but this humble sect has something your honored sect needs.”
Song He’s brow moved slightly. “Oh?”
“Phoenix blood,” Peak Master Zhi He said straightforwardly. “Path Friend Song He, did you know our founding ancestor had the remnants of the phoenix bloodline?”
Song He was surprised to see Zhi He stating this secret so openly. “What does your honored sect wants in exchange from my humble sect?”
“This humble sect has a simple idea—to join with your honored sect…”
The closed door was pushed open. Huan Zhong stood expressionless outside, dressed in white. “Shishu, Peak Master Zhi He, please forgive this junior for the disturbance.”
The wind blew up his robes to dance freely.
Translator Ramblings: Huan Zhong is getting closer and closer … and at risk of getting engaged.
Also, larkspur bugged me into making a group discord. Happy New Years!