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Chapter 102: Fault
Kong Hou separated from Huan Zhong and ran to the Food Hall.
The disciples of the Food Hall were happy to see Kong Hou and recommended the new foods they had made to her. Kong Hou scanned the line of strange things and picked some pastries that looked delicious.
“Grand Shishu…” A man dressed in clean blue robes looked up from a large wok, his face covered in sweat from the smoke and fire. Kong Hou looked for a while to recognize that this was Huan Zhong’s descendant of an unknown number of generations, Chu Ji Xuan. Hadn’t he joined Five Flavors Manor? Why was he in the food hall of Splendid Cloud Sect?
“Ji Xuan.” Kong Hou smiled at him and nodded. “How are you here?”
“In order to increase our pursuit of the cooking path, the disciples of the manor will take turns in the food hall of your honored sect.” Chu Ji Xuan smiled and was clearly content with Splendid Cloud Sect’s food hall. “Your honored sect has a variety of ingredients, the path friends are all friendly, and the disciples all respect cooking cultivators. The manor disciples all like taking their shifts here.”
After joining his sect, he knew the status of the cooking cultivators was not high. But the disciples of Splendid Cloud Sect were different, and never slighted him for being a new disciple. No matter the time, if they met him, they would warmly and politely greet him and would give him all kinds of good ingredients.
The elder disciples frequently said it was only after joining Splendid Cloud Sect that they truly knew what it was like for a guest to feel at home and to be respected.
As cooking cultivators, their favorite compliment was that their diners had a great appetite for the food they worked to make.
“Your great grand uncle has come. If you have time, go see him.” Kong Hou saw it was almost time for the noon meal and knew they were about to become busy. “I will first bring him some pastries to taste.”
“Grand Shishu, wait.” Chu Ji Xuan glanced at the pastries in Kong Hou’s tray and added a few more. He said delicately, “These several are very welcomed by your honored sect’s disciples.”
Kong Hou immediately understood and put back the pastries she had taken before.
After a long time, her shixiong and shijie‘s pursuit of the culinary path was even more unusual.
“Is Great Grand Uncle still well?” Chu Ji Xuan wiped his hands embarrassedly.
Kong Hou nodded and said with a smile, “He is very good. Do you want to go with me to see him?”
“That is good.” Chu Ji Xuan nodded dazedly but then quickly shook his head. “I will not disturb Great Grand Uncle.” After joining Five Flavors Manor, he had sent a letter back to his father-emperor and mother-empress. His father-emperor’s reply had mentioned the secrets of the court from several hundred years ago. He had learned that Great Grand Uncle and the Chu Family did not have harmonious relations.
Father-Emperor emphasized that if he met Great Grand Uncle, he could not disturb the other or incur his dislike. The Chu Family had been in the wrong back then.
“What does nodding and shaking your head mean?”
“I…” Chu Ji Xuan shook his head. “This junior means that Great Grand Uncle has come a long way, and this junior will not disturb his rest.”
Kong Hou did not press and nodded to indicate her understanding. She turned and saw some disciples coming in, talking and laughing. She said, “I will bid farewell. You are busy.”
“Grand Shishu, farewell.” Chu Ji Xuan bowed. After joining Five Flavors Manor for several months, his conduct had matured compared to their initial meeting.
Gui Ling and the others just walked to the entrance of Food Hall and saw a beautiful woman with a warm smile walk out. Gao Jian Yan stared dazedly at the woman’s face and could not recover.
“Kong, Kong Hou Shijie, greetings, greetings.” Li Rou blushed and bowed to Kong Hou.
“Greetings, Shidi and Shimei.” Kong Hou nodded in return, her eyes sweeping across them. She said with a smile, “Go get your places. If other people come, you will not get the dishes you want.”
Li Rou’s face was red, her voice as thin as a mosquito. “Yes, thank you, Shijie, for the reminder.”
The disciples who were used to her loud voice were unused to Li Rou suddenly turning soft and rubbed their arms.
Gui Ling noticed Kong Hou was holding pastries in a quantity for several people and guessed she was bringing them to other people. He bowed to Kong Hou. “Shijie, welcome back.”
“No need for such politeness.” Kong Hou found this shidi had a refined appearance and looked again at him. “You are all newly-joined disciples.”
“Yes, I am Gui Ling.”
“Gui Ling…” Kong Hou nodded. “The clouds return half into the ridge, near water with the frost of autumn (gui yun ban ru ling, shui jian shuang qui)… Good name.”
Gui Ling’s eyes trembled slightly. He bowed his head and returned the greeting. “Thank you, Shijie, for your praise.”
Kong Hou smiled and said, “All right, go eat. Farewell.”
“Shijie, walk well.” Gui Ling bowed and smelled the faint fragrance when the young woman passed.
When they were seated, he found Li Rou was looking with dislike at him and was confused. “What is your problem?”
“You have a problem!” Li Rou rolled her eyes at him. “I had not seen that you have such cunning.”
Gui Ling’s hand trembled as he held his chopsticks, but then he firmly clamped the vegetable. “What do you mean?”
“You grabbed Shijie‘s attention from me,” Li Rou gritted out. “I have irreconcilable hate against you.”
Gui Ling almost dropped his chopsticks. What problem was this? Li Rou was a woman, a woman. Why did she want the attention of a shijie?!
Kong Hou carried the pastries all the way to the courtyard where Radiance Sect was residing. The disciple standing guard was Xiao Dong. He saw Kong Hou and bowed to her, saying, “Shishu.”
“Xiao Dong, is Huan Zhong present?”
“Shishu is in Shizhu‘s yard.” Xiao Dong pointed in a direction. “He just passed.”
“Thank you.” Kong Hou walked in the direction Xiao Dong had pointed.
Xiao Dong looked at her graceful back and couldn’t help but think, when Kong Hou Shishu, with her good temper, joined with Shishu, would Shishu‘s temper soften?
In Song He’s room, Zhi He looked at Huan Zhong who suddenly appeared and was puzzled. He always heard the disciples of Radiance Sect were polite and rule-abiding. Why would a junior suddenly charge in the rooms of an elder? He turned to look at Song He who showed no anger. What status did this Spirit Master Huan Zhong have in Radiance Sect?
“Zhi He, this is my unaccomplished shizhi, the peak master of Luan and Phoenix Peak.” Song He smiled and called to Huan Zhong, “What are you standing at the door for? Come in.”
“Shishu.” Huan Zhong bowed to Song He elegantly.
Zhong Xi said in shock, “Isn’t the peak master of Luan and Phoenix Peak Spirit Master Zhong Xi?”
“Brother Zhi may not know that when my shizhi joined the sect, my shixiong gave him the name of Zhong Xi, but his mortal name is Huan Zhong.” Song He’s smile was even more gentle. “This boy does not forget his birth mother and likes to use his mortal name when travelling.” He did not mention Nine Phoenix Sect’s intentions for a marriage alliance and wanted to leave Zhi He some face.
Disregarding the relationship between Shizhi and Miss Kong Hou, even if he wasn’t in love, they would not ignore his wishes and force him together with someone. The medicine ingredients were important, but a sword cultivator pursued their own path. What was the meaning in barely surviving by selling one’s body and heart?
He did not understand why Nine Phoenix Sect suddenly had this idea. While the marriage of two disciples was a good thing from the perspective of the sects, people were people. While others said that sword cultivators were as cold as swords, they should not really treat them as swords.
But even if Song He did not mention it, Zhi He was not willing to give up. He looked at Huan Zhong and said, “So Virtuous Nephew is Peak Master Zhong Xi. What do you think of this matter?”
“Apologies,” Huan Zhong said coldly. “Your honored sect’s female disciples are talented, and this junior is unworthy.”
“I think that you are not unworthy, but unwilling.” Zhi He was unhappy at Huan Zhong’s unhesitating refusal. He could not maintain his smile. “Zhong Xi, I hear your honored sect urgently needs phoenix blood. You should know how valuable this is; you will really not consider it?”
“Forgive me, Peak Master. People can give up some things in life but not others.” Huan Zhong had a calm expression. “This junior understands very well how valuable phoenix blood is. But Peak Master, do not worry, once you leave the door today, the fact that your honored sect has phoenix blood will not pass to the ears of another.”
Song He looked in surprise at Huan Zhong. This shizhi was able to say something like this. If this was in the past, he would not have considered this. It appeared people needed to walk outside to see more and grow.
Zhi He did not doubt Radiance Sect’s conduct on this point. He tried to adjust his mental state. “If so, this one will bid farewell.”
“Brother Zhi He, do not be in such a hurry. Drink a cup of tea.” Song He stood to keep him.
“No need.” Zhi He was slightly disappointed. In his view, the pairing of Zhong Xi and Ling Yue was a matter that only had benefits. Since the other was unwilling, he could not demand. “Cheng Yi Shizhi‘s Mind Manifestation ceremony is in two days. I need to return and prepare gifts.”
This was an excuse. The representatives of the major sects had prepared their gifts when leaving; they would not be preparing now. Song He did not expose Zhi He and saw him off at the door. “Brother Zhi He, take care.”
“Brother Song He, stay.” Zhi He bowed to Song He and Huan Zhong. “Brother Song He, Virtuous Nephew Zhong Xi, farewell.”
Huan Zhong did not look at him. He suddenly lifted his head and looked to the round door at the right.
Kong Hou was holding a tray with pastries, looking at him from the door.
Fingers trembling, Huan Zhong opened his mouth. “Kong Hou…”
Kong Hou had faintly heard the words “Virtuous Nephew Zhong Xi” from Zhi He’s mouth. She looked towards Huan Zhong and Song He, and then at the two sword cultivators dressed in disciple robes. But none of them were nine feet tall and also all were very handsome.
Before she could look closely, Zhi He was walking towards her. Kong Hou took a step to the side and curtsied to Zhi He.
Zhi He saw Kong Hou and nodded slightly at her. He suddenly seemed to think of something; he turned to look at Huan Zhong and then at Kong Hou.
So this was why…
He had thought that Zhong Xi was emotionless and did not have any lover, so the sect wanted a marriage alliance. If he knew before that Zhong Xi had intentions towards the new disciple of Splendid Cloud Sect, he would not have spoken.
A sword cultivator would discuss the heavens, the earth, the sword path. But why would they discuss love?
Zhi He sighed inside. How many of the cultivators immersed in love had good endings?
“Song He Shishu.” Kong Hou saw Song He and thought of the storybook that Song He had taken away before. She bowed to him.
“You two juniors talk. I have to find Path Friend Wang Tong to discuss the path.” Song He forced a smile at Kong Hou, turned and went outside, not forgetting to take the other disciples as well.
The yard immediately quieted.
“Where is Spirit Master Zhong Xi?” Kong Hou shoved the tray into Huan Zhong’s hand and looked around him.
Huan Zhong used a minor spell to move the tray to the stone table. He grabbed Kong Hou’s shoulders. “There is no Spirit Master Zhong Xi in the room.” He looked at the young woman’s confused eyes and slowly said, “Kong Hou, my mortal name is Huan Zhong; my mother named me. Later, when I joined Radiance Sect, Master said I had a noble fate and needed a noble name, so my cultivator name is…”
Kong Hou looked dazedly at Huan Zhong, her heart surging with countless emotions. A long time later, she asked, “Nine feet tall?”
“That is just a rumor, but some evil cultivator I killed was nine feet tall.”
“Eyes like lightning?” Kong Hou looked up in Huan Zhong’s eyes and covered her eyes. This pair of eyes was beautiful and deep as though all the stars were within them. They were… they were like lightning.
“Apologies, I didn’t mean to deceive you. However, the name Zhong Xi would frequently cause unnecessary commotions. I left the sect to travel the world and completely threw away my responsibilities as a peak master of Radiance Sect.” Huan Zhong’s long eyelashes trembled. “Kong Hou, do not distance yourself from me because of this.”
He grabbed Kong Hou’s sleeve and shook it. Suppressing his embarrassment, he buried his head against Kong Hou’s shoulder. “Forgive me?”
Warmth on her shoulder, a faintly medicinal scent in her nose—Kong Hou felt faint. Like she was possessed, she reached and patted Huan Zhong’s back. “Don’t be afraid, I am not angry at you. All right.”
Huan Zhong looked up and saw the young woman’s gaze was like one of consoling a child. He suddenly smiled. He pulled her to sit beside the stone table and poured a cup of tea for her. “What do you need to ask me? I will tell you everything.”
“Wait a moment.” Kong Hou drank the tea and her mind, muddled by beauty, finally found a thread of clarity. “Let me organize.
“So, you are the legendary Spirit Master Zhong Xi, rumored to be nine feet tall, have eyes like lightning, able to stop children crying at night, reached Mind Dividing at just over two hundred years old and is a peak master?” Kong Hou drank half of her tea before she added, “The greatest genius in a millennium?”
“No genius, that is just absurd talk from people…”
“So you are three hundred and twenty-eight now?” Kong Hou calculated. “Huan Zhong, you are older than me by three centuries, and another eleven years.”
Huan Zhong looked at Kong Hou. A moment later, he said, his lips pressed, “Mm-hmm.”
The wind blew through the courtyard and caused the leaves to rustle.
Huan Zhong looked at the shaking leaves as if he saw his shaking heart. He looked down at his teacup. “Do you… do you dislike my age?”
Peaking at Huan Zhong’s perfect face—this face, she would not bear to dislike it even if it was a thousand years old, much less merely three hundred.
“No, no, older men are more mature.” Kong Hou hurriedly took another sip of tea. Her words did not seem right.
“Thank you.” Huan Zhong held Kong Hou’s wrist. “Also, sorry.”
“Just a name,” Kong Hou said generously. “No matter what you are called, you are you; the name is merely a label.” Kong Hou thought of how she had asked in front of Huan Zhong if Spirit Master Zhong Xi was good-looking and covered her face. “Only… I embarrassed myself.
“If I had known you were Spirit Master Zhong Xi, I would have never asked those stupid questions.” Thinking back to the past, Kong Hou felt that she was even more embarrassed and unable to face Huan Zhong normally.
“Not embarrassing.” Huan Zhong stood and walked in front of Kong Hou. He crouched in front of her and looked up at her. “My memory is not good, I forget many things and only remember that… you have always been beautiful and adorable.”
What did it feel like when a perfect man crouched in front of her, and looked up at her with a gentle gaze?
Kong Hou could not describe it in words. She felt like she possessed the entire world in this moment. She was the empress, the master of the world. She wanted to lower her head and touch foreheads with Huan Zhong.
But she intelligently cut off her wild thoughts. She did not want Huan Zhong to think she was a pervert at a young age.
But if she could possess this gaze for a long time, possess this person, maybe…
“Is Path Friend Zhong Xi here?” Wu Chuan’s voice sounded outside the gates.
Kong Hou came back from being immersed in beauty. She coughed and sat up properly. She could not let Eldest Shixiong Wu Chuan discover she had such evil thoughts. If she was sent to the underground prison for a few days, she would have great challenges.
Huan Zhong stood, neatened his robes and walked to the gates. “Path Friend Wu Chuan, please enter.”
Wu Chuan looked with puzzlement at Huan Zhong. Was Splendid Cloud Mountain hot? Why was Path Friend Zhong Xi’s face red, and even his ears?
“Thank you.” Wu Chuan walked into the courtyard and saw Kong Hou present. “Shimei, why are you here?”
“I brought Huan Zhong back; of course I have to make him welcome.” Kong Hou stood and bowed to Wu Chuan. “Eldest Shixiong Wu Chuan, why did you come?”
“I wanted to come tell Path Friend Zhong Xi that a banquet is being held tonight at Crane Hall. We hope that Path Friend Zhong Xi, Peak Master Song He and the other disciples of your honored sect will attend.” Wu Chuan had not examined her back in the main hall due to the number of people. Now he examined her closely. “It seems you lived well outside; you even have more meat on your face.”
Kong Hou: “…”
Shixiong, praising a girl for having more meat on the face was not a good thing to say.
Huan Zhong handed a cup of tea to Wu Chuan. “Path Friend Wu Chuan, thank you for your invitation. We will arrive on time.”
“Path Friend Zhong Xi, this is your first time at Splendid Cloud Sect—are you used to staying here?” Wu Chuan said. “If you have any needs, tell me.”
“Don’t worry. With me here, Huan Zhong will not be slighted.” Kong Hou held a teacup and took a piece of pastry.
Wu Chuan thought, Little Shimei Kong Hou went out for half a year, brought back many good things, and even a one-in-a-millennium sword cultivator. Her ability to bring things home was unrivalled.
But Spirit Master Zhong Xi was cold and particular about manners. Was Shimei being too casual?
As he thought this, he saw Spirit Master Zhong Xi take out several dishes of fruits brimming with spirit energy from his storage ring and place them in front of Shimei. These spirit fruits were all worth a great amount. People without any ability could not buy them with just spirit stones.
Then he looked at Shimei. She casually picked one up and ate, her movements practiced. He then looked at Spirit Master Zhong Xi. He had a gentle expression, with none of the rumored coldness.
It appeared rumors were rumors, and could not be taken as truth. Spirit Master Zhong Xi was not like a sharpened sword, but a piece of precious jade, warm and noble.
“These fruits are not good-tasting.” Kong Hou frowned. “Sour.”
“Then next time we will not buy this.” Huan Zhong put away the spirit fruits Kong Hou said were sour. He put out a plate of spirit melons and said to Wu Chuan, “Path Friend Wu Chuan, please.”
“Thank you.” Wu Chuan glanced out of the corner of his eye at Kong Hou. Had Little Shimei Kong Hou been so spoiled in the past? Those were oil fruits worth almost a hundred spirit stones each. They may be sour, but they were full of spirit energy and were rare.
“Yes.” Kong Hou tasted the other kind of fruit, smiled, and then picked a big one from the plate to hand to Huan Zhong. “This is good—taste it.”
Huan Zhong’s brow gentled. He took a bite. “As delicious as expected.”
“Wu Chuan: “…”
Three people were sitting at this table, but he felt he was extraneous.
Shimei was his *Shimei** but why was she so close to an outsider?
“Kong Hou Shimei, the three elders have finished seclusion. I will take you to see them later,” Wu Chuan said. “Path Friend Huan Zhong has come a long way. Let him rest for a while—do not keep disturbing him.”
“No matter, I am not tired.” Huan Zhong had a smile on his lips. “Kong Hou is not disturbing me, and I am grateful for her company in these days.”
“We are friends.” Kong Hou stood up and shoved the spirit fruits she felt were delicious into her storage ring. “Huan Zhong, I am going to visit the elders. Rest first, and I will come tonight to take you to the banquet.”
“All right, I will wait for you.” Huan Zhong stood up and straightened her slightly tilted hairpin.
Wu Chuan felt these words were slightly wrong. Shimei, a young girl, taking a man to eat—shouldn’t their genders be switched? In front of guests, Wu Chuan appeared silent and steady.
Huan Zhong saw the two disciples out of the courtyard. After walking a long way, Wu Chuan saw Zhong Xi still standing and watching them. He said, “Path Friend Zhong Xi is truly too polite.”
“Yes, Huan Zhong has always been this good.” Kong Hou nodded in agreement.
Wu Chuan smiled and looked at her. “We shixiong are not good then?”
“Shixiong are all super good.” Kong Hou hugged and swung Wu Chuan’s arm. “Shixiong are the best.”
“I think you want to say that Cheng Yi Shixiong is the best,” Wu Chuan said. “Cheng Yi has been steadying his mental state these two days. He will come out of seclusion the day after tomorrow. Do not be anxious. The Sword of Heaven and Earth you brought back is extraordinary. Cheng Yi read it and suddenly had an epiphany which levelled up his mental state.”
“Wu Chuan Shixiong, you are also very good—I am not lying to you,” Kong Hou said with a smile. “I don’t know how powerful that sword method is, but it is good it can help you.”
Wu Chuan himself had detected a loosening of his mental state recently. His breakthrough was imminent as well. But a mental breakthrough should be slow and not rushed, so he did not deliberately search for opportunities. “Master and the three elders have seen that sword method. They say that it was lost, and of great help to sword cultivators. After Cheng Yi’s Mind Manifestation ceremony, they will print it as books and send it to the major sects. Master intends that you will get seventy percent of the thank you fees the sects will send over.”
“So much?” Kong Hou rubbed her face. “Half is enough for me.”
“The sect does not lack spirit stones. You should get ninety percent. But if you are given too much, it will not be good if people learn about it. Seventy percent is appropriate.” Wu Chuan’s expression was steady but his words were pragmatic. “It is best if you keep the spirit stones and talismans yourself.”
Young girls liked all kinds of beautiful dresses and talismans. No amount of spirit stones was enough to spend.
On Moon Perching Peak, Wang Tong was delayed by Song He. He did not know what was wrong with Song He recently. The other liked to find him all the time to discuss the path. They had known each other for so many years—what was there left to discuss?
Patiently sitting on the meditation mat, Wang Tong thought when his youngest apprentice would finish visiting the three elders and then find him.
“While Zhong Xi does not like to speak much, he is a reliable person and protective of the people close to him. He found many secret realms in earlier years and accumulated many spirit stones and talismans.” Song He took a drink of tea. Seeing Wang Tong’s lack of reaction, he continued, “He himself is skilled in forging and making seals. He also has some ability in divination and pill-making. He is a good child.”
“Those of my generation are embarrassed by Spirit Master Zhong Xi’s talents.” Wang Tong changed his sitting position and thought inside, when did Radiance Sect get infected by Clear Dawn Sect’s fault to boast about their disciples all the time?
Spirit Master Zhong Xi was powerful, but no matter how powerful, he was not a member of Moon Perching Peak. What was the meaning of the talk?
“Brother Wang Tong, do not say this. Zhong Xi respects his masters and elders.”” Song He worried that Wang Tong would think that Huan Zhong was arrogant and explained, “He is also your shizhi—how can he make you embarrassed?”
Wang Tong changed his sitting position again and did not understand Song He’s intentions.
What was wrong with Radiance Sect? Why were the words so strange?
Translator Ramblings: There’s a lot going on in this chapter … Kong Hou has a fanclub, the identity reveal, the age difference …
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