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Home > The Sage Who Transcended Samsara

34 Side Task

 The "Hundred Face Bookster" was renowned for his mastery of disguise and camouflage, as well as the Lightness Skill. Within a split second, he had moved quickly in such a narrow space and struggled to escape the chasing glinting sword whose tip pointed straight at his mid-brows.

But he was terrified to find that no matter how quick he moved, it seemed that his adversary already knew his next moves and could keep pace with him. The coldness of the sword light between his mid-brows grew more intense and deep!

"How can this swordsman be so powerful?"

While at the inn, he had made a stealthy inquiry into the "Dominator of Heluo", Guan Haoran, so he knew that Zhang Yuanshan's martial arts prowess had become superb and even stepped into the Preternatural. So after the sneak attack on Master Xin Ji, he chose an escape route that could avoid Zhang Yuanshan and did not try to break out from Little Zi's barricade, who literally had no Kung Fu.

"Who would've ever thought that this charming girl who always wore a bright smile was indeed a fearsome swordsman!"

She was absolutely superior to the widely venerated and deified Young Master Zhang!

Far superior!

Regret ran deep and hot through the Hundred Face Bookster's veins all the way to his heart, but he knew he could tarry no longer. Should he dodge this sword, by the time when the Presidents and Elders of Shaolin arrived, he would have no chance to escape. So, he gritted his teeth and dashed forward. A flush of crimson showed on his cheek. He then abruptly dodged backward with ghostly footwork, moving straight between Meng Qi and Qi Zhengyan.

He was trying to get rid of Jiang Zhiwei's sword with the help of a "human shield"!

Meng Qi was awe-struck by Hundred Face Bookster's deft agility as he moved so quickly and weirdly like a ghost or a fox. In a sudden burst of realization, he thought of his own "Eight Divine Steps". At once, he seemed to have understood something but also seemed to understand nothing.

Hundred Face Bookster stepped seemingly into the thin air with his left foot and pivoted on his right, spinning himself around with an otherworldly move. He was about to dodge his way behind Meng Qi to elude Jiang Zhiwei's bone-handled sword.

"That footwork..."

Meng Qi felt it strangely familiar as there was a similar move in the Eight Divine Steps!

Thus, he instinctively spun around on his heels and dodged his way behind Hundred Face Bookster in a flash as well.

No one stood before him, so Hundred Face Bookster was stunned and dumbfounded. Moreover, the coldness in his mid-brow scowl grew more intense.

He had no choice but to change his steps again. And Meng Qi exerted the best step of "the Eight Divine Steps" under Hundred Face Bookster's inducement.

Like dance partners, the two men shifted direction over and over again. Although they changed all the time, they kept facing each other. Their moves were graceful and unpredictable.

"Damn it!"

Hundred Face Bookster cursed in rage in his heart. If he had just another split second, he would have sent this little monk straight to hell. But after a single block, he realized that the sharp point of the blade was again pointed at him.

At his side, Qi Zhengyang drew his long sword. Slowly and languidly, a blanket of stars descended like wintry snow from Heaven, enveloping Hundred Face Bookster.

When Zhang Yuanshan and the Shaolin monks finally arrived, Hundred Face Bookster had his back to the wall.

Meng Qi's Kung Fu technique was far inferior to Hundred Face Bookster's, so with the fear of being taken hostage by him, he put the Eight Divine Steps to good use. Looking for the opportunity to make a break out of it, he unsheathed his Buddhist Commandment Blade and prepared to exert the Fists of Pacification, ultimately stabbing Hundred Face Bookster when he was off guard.

Meng Qi's heart was filled with indignation when he thought that he had spent a whole day with Hundred Face Bookster, who completely tricked him and drove him to the brink of death. Thus, Meng Qi would naturally not miss any chance to get revenge.

Hundred Face Bookster's wealth of novel disguises were all for naught. He had taken the palm strike of the President at the Commandment Yard and clashed swords with Jiang Zhiwei, Zhang Yuanshan, and Qi Zhengyan. But with tousled hair, losing blood, and staggering about, his reactions became sluggish, leaving no hope of escape.

Seeing this, Meng Qi made his move, his sword cutting a mortal wound in his adversary's back.

"Oh, how narrow-minded I am!"

Hundred Face Bookster could no longer support his own weight. He collapsed to the ground and after a red cassock flashed, his acupoints were sealed.

"Namo Amitabha. Donor Kuang, how have you been since our parting? 10 years have passed, it's my fault that I failed to recognize you." Xin Ji's face was pale, but he stepped forward without support from anyone.

Hundred Face Bookster was captured, and knowing that begging for his life was pointless, he threw his head back and laughed heartily. "Haha, Your Abbotship has grown dim with age and is no longer the hero of the day. But, the great general loves the Master. Should you yourself attempt to command the defection of the Shaolin monks, he would surely beseech the emperor, who would make the Shaolin Temple the first Buddhist temple for the wise Royal Advisor! That day, its incense will burn upon the fertile earth!"

"I would never do the deads of the Asuras like leading beasts to eat human beings." Xin Ji rolled off these words with grandiosity.

"You're the only concern the general is worried about, and now that you're injured, who else can stop the general? Is it the narrowest mountain pass? This can contain the ordinary masters and soldiers. Yet, to the general, it's as level as the flatlands and would exist only in name!" Failed in buying off His Abbotship, Hundred Face Bookster tried to terrify him. "Your Abbotship, you shall not let the Shaolin Temple perish with its millennium inheritance."

Meng Qi nodded slightly and imperceptibly, yet was not in total agreement with Hundred Face Bookster's sentiment. One thing he said was correct, however, when in the presence of an incomparable "transcendent" master, even the narrowest of mountain passes would be of no use. This master could pass right through, kill the guards, and open the channel for his accomplices to enter.

"Amitabha. You needn't say much. Shaolin's heritage lay within the spirit of Zen." Xin Ji lifted his tunic and swept his bony withered hand atop Hundred Face Bookster's head. "I can't hold my hand in the face of a war anymore."

"I can't believe you're going to kill me!" Hundred Face Bookster was both frightened and terrified. He had expected that Shaolin Monks would stop Jiang Zhiwei and Zhang Yuanshan from killing him and just destroy his Kung Fu accomplishments. "What about your commandments and your Siddhartha Gautama? The general is coming and you'll all be dead!"

"Amitabha. The Budda has not only a compassionate heart but also a fierce stare." Xin Ji said in a calm and even tone and gently slapped his palm on the head of Hundred Face Bookster.

Within the blink of an eye, Hundred Face Bookster fell softly to the ground with his eyes wide open.

Feeling this old monk was a man after his own heart, Meng Qi was just about to speak when he suddenly caught sight of the eternal smile of the Golden Body of the Buddharupa flash once again, and with that, a flame arose out of thin air, and in it was a constantly changing text.

"Side task one: For killing Hundred Face Bookster, one of the four Preternatural Master Pros at the enemy camp, Jiang Zhiwei will receive a reward of 30 Karma points; Zhang Yuanshan and Zhen Ding will each receive a reward of 20 Karma points; Qi Zhengyan and Wang Jin will receive a reward of 10 Karma points.

"Side task description: Kill one of the four Preternatural Master Pros from the enemy camp. Those who take up the gauntlet to carry out this task shall be rewarded with the proper points in accordance with the degree of difficulty, his strength, and level of effort.

"Side task two starts: Kill General Duo Ercha. Each man who takes up the gauntlet and enters into this accord shall be rewarded within the range of 50-200 Karma points!"

Meng Qi was very much surprised. "Is this a side task?"

At that time, Zhang Yuanshan spoke to him and Qi Zhengyan with the Secret Voice-sending. "I had no time to tell you two in detail earlier. I began this task when I assassinated Guan Haoran, for I took action alone and thus received 50 Karma points according to my strength. If Junior Brother Zhen Ding had taken the task independently, the reward would've been over 100 Karma points."

Meng Qi nodded in agreement, however, he could ask no questions under the circumstances, so he waited for Xin Ji to speak.

Looking at the corpse of Hundred Face Bookster, Xin Ji was about to talk when suddenly a white-eyebrowed monk appeared from his back and pointed at Meng Qi and others indignantly. "You poisonous traitors! How dare you to bring Hundred Face Bookster into the temple and injure His Abbotship! What else is in your cunning scheme?"

The Presidents and Elders stepped forward one by one, intending to take down Meng Qi and the others.

Before Zhang Yuanshan could begin his explanation, Xin Ji waved his sleeves and said, "There is no need to get annoyed, these donors aren't spies and had just been deceived by Hundred Face Bookster. If they were spies, I would be dead if Donor Jiang and Donor Zhang both attacked me when Hundred Face Bookster made his sneak-attack on me."

As this line of reasoning was very convincing, their excitement gave way to calm, but the white-eyebrowed monk's expression remained unperturbed. "The identities of your donors are questionable. Perhaps a lot of you are indeed righteous and noble of spirit, but it's uncertain that there might be someone like Hundred Face Bookster among you who would hide for his future cunning scheme. Until the identity of the colluder has been made clear, none of you shall be allowed to remain in the temple."

"But this would dispirit the honest and righteous who are coming to help," a middle-aged monk said hesitatingly.

The white-eyebrowed monk said firmly, "His Abbotship was attacked and badly injured. We can't take any more risks, and what's more, there may be quite a few Barbarian spies among the righteous men. I think it's better to make them leave."

Master Xin Ji let out a heavy sigh and announced to Zhang Yuanshan, "There are some contentions and debates in this holy temple of ours, which are unsuitable for you to hear. I suggest that your donors should go back first. We'll inform you of the result of the discussion."

Though feeling begrudged for the unfair treatment, Zhang Yuanshan, Jiang Zhiwei, and the others did not turn against the monks because of their cultivation from large sects and their young age. Instead, they carried Ke Bijun's body on their back, said farewell, and returned to the foot of the mountain.

Wang Jin, who had never spoken with Meng Qi and the others while traversing the mountain paths, suddenly spoke up, "Should none of us be allowed into the temple, then how shall we persevere in the foothills?"

Zhang Yuanshan pondered in silence for a moment, "I hope for a fruitful negotiation, and standing our ground at the foot of the mountain is also protecting the Shaolin Temple, though I know it is perilous. Ah, Junior Brother Zhen Ding, do you know the secret passage to the Shaolin Temple?"

Instead of taking the regular route to the Shaolin Temple, he intended to sneak in from the secret passage, yet this place was strikingly similar to the main world of the Shaolin Temple. Asking Meng Qi was the correct choice.

"I've only been in the temple for a year, how could I know the secret passage?" Meng Qi answered with deep resignation.

Abruptly, Qi Zhengyan interjected in a soft voice, "We may sneak into the Shaolin Temple where the Barbarian army had broken through the pass, and we'll be more careful from there on."

Zhang Yuanshan sighed, "Considering that Master Xin Ji is badly injured, I doubt Shaolin's determination to stand fast. Perhaps they may ask promising disciples to secretly leave with scripts, Buddha's relics, and other precious things. At that time, it doesn't matter whether or not we're spies and they'll let us in."

"I hope that things will go as Senior Brother Zhang has expected," Qi Zhengyan said nodding in agreement.

Jiang Zhiwei, who kept silent the whole time, suddenly spoke up, "If it's impossible for us to enter the temple to complete our main task, we should try our best to kill Duo Ercha, so that we can each obtain 50 Karma points, which would be enough for the deduction added to the previous accumulation."

"What a typical thought of Jiang Zhiwei..."

Meng Qi had unspoken criticism.

At that moment, Zhang Yuanshan said in a solemn tone, "We had no idea that Xiang Hui was replaced by Hundred Face Bookster, and we talked a lot about the World of Samsara. So, why didn't he strike us down?"

"Perhaps Dominator of Samsara in Six Realms had manipulated Hundred Face Bookster's hearing. After all, he can't warn us of the 'spy', but we shall not be blamed for this mishap," Meng Qi guessed.

It was the only explanation, for Hundred Face Bookster was dead while Meng Qi himself and the others were not obliterated.

They arrived at the inn during the discussion, only to find an oppressive atmosphere of silence and fear.

"What happened, Swordsman Wei?" Meng Qi waved to Wei Wuji, who was standing close by.

Wei Wuji walked hurriedly over and looked at Zhang Yuanshan. Shocked and terrified, he said, "Young Master Zhang, Junior Leader Lin was murdered!"

"What?" Zhang Yunshan regained his composure, but could not keep from voicing his shock. Was Lin Biexue, who they had just been sipping tea and cackling over wine with, actually murdered?

"Yes, the boy attendant of Junior Leader Lin saw that it was the time that Lin should've finished his meditation and Qi-circulation. So he went to tidy up, only to find that Lin was lying on the bed in a peculiar death posture," Wei Wuji said in a frightened tone.

"Bring us to take a look," Zhang Yuanshan ordered.

Feeling that this was strange, Meng Qi made no objection. He followed them to the second floor and entered Lin Biexue's room.

In the room, Lin Biexue lay still and silent on the bed, with a peaceful and tranquil expression and a smile on his lips, seemingly relieved and reborn with no pain. However, the skin and muscles under his neck were shrunken and jaundiced, as if he were an old mummy. It was all terribly bizarre!

"This kind of death seems so strikingly familiar, yet it's not identical..." Zhang Yuanshan gave Jiang Zhiwei a puzzled look.

Jiang Zhiwei nodded in agreement, showing the same feeling.

Suddenly, a loud "Bang!" rang out through the air from the door behind them.

Meng Qi and the others looked back and saw Little Zi step back with her face ghastly white. She even felt nothing when she slammed straight into the back wall.

"Xiaosang, Xiaosang has come..." she said, shaking her head as if in a trance.