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Home > The Sage Who Transcended Samsara

49 The Special Training Place

 There were only a few stars in the night sky, for the moon was especially bright. The north wind was blowing a chill harshly into their bones. Meng Qi and Zhen Hui were walking back to the Warrior-monk Yard.

"Little brother, thank you for begging Master to take me also as his apprentice," Meng Qi said, after being silent for a while.

Although this was not what he really wanted, the loyalty of his little brother was still worthy of his thanks.

Zhen Hui walked swiftly and appeared very happy. He said lightheartedly, "It has nothing to do with me. Master had long ago wanted to take you as his apprentice."

"What? How did you know?" Meng Qi asked in surprise.

Zhen Hui turned his head and looked at him oddly. "I have long ago finished transcribing the two scriptures."

"That's right! Why haven't I thought of this!"

Meng Qi suddenly realized, looking up and down at Zhen Hui.

"Does this guy have true wisdom under asininity?"

Zhen Hui was a little discomfited by his stare. He shrank his neck. "Brother, I did not eat your food."

"Eh?"

Meng Qi narrowed his eyes.

"No wonder I was feeling starved during the isolation days! I thought hunger was a part of the punishment!"

During the isolation, the meals were delivered to their room.

Zhen Hui backed away a few steps. Meng Qi clenched his teeth but said, "Never mind, you are at a crucial period opening up Dantian, and need sufficient food."

"Hmmm!" Zhen Hui nodded honestly.

While talking, the two returned to the Warrior-monk Yard. Hardly had they entered the meditation room when over came Zhen Yong, who heard the door open.

"Junior Brother Zhen Ding, Junior Brother Zhen Hui, you are really blessed by Buddha. Chosen by Uncle Xuan Bei as his apprentices!" He greeted them with a compliment, but also a bit of envy.

Meng Qi laughed. "Of which I did not expect it either. I thought I would be rewarded with one of the 72 Ultimate Arts."

"Alas, I was scared then, or else... what a pity... " Zhen Yong sighed and grumbled, regretting having chosen to ignore the anomaly and spare the trouble.

After the incident in the back of the mountain, Meng Qi was not as close to him as before, but he still consoled him with few words. "I was rewarded for the discovery, but Junior Brother Zhen Hui was rewarded for his wonderful performance in the Warrior-monk Yard and the Chores Yard. Brother Zhen Yong, you will also have chances."

"I hope so, Buddha of Amitabha. May all the buddhas and bodhisats above heaven be just." Zhen Yong sighed. He put away his envious, jealous, and remorseful expression and braced up some cheerfulness. "After becoming an apprentice of Uncle Xuan Bei, you will certainly learn the 72 Ultimate Arts. I wonder, what arts have you chosen?"

"I will do Golden Bell Shield, and Junior Brother Zhen Hui will do Flower-pinching Finger," Meng Qi answered while packing, for there was no need to hide this kind of thing.

Zhen Yong froze for a moment. "Flower-pinching Finger? Junior Brother Zhen Hui, have you truly picked Flower-pinching Finger?"

His tone was a bit strange. Meng Qi raised his head. "Senior Brother Zhen Yong, is there anything wrong?"

Zhen Yong shook his head and smiled. "Nothing wrong. I am just worried about Junior Brother Zhen Hui, for Flower-pinching Finger is very difficult to practice, and it cannot be distracted by other supreme arts. But Junior Brother Zhen Hui has always been an attentive person. I shouldn't have worried about this."

Then he turned to Zhen Hui with an envious expression. "Junior Brother Zhen Hui, Flower-pinching Finger is derived directly from The Buddha's Palm, and it is the first among our Shaolin's 72 Ultimate Arts. You shall apply yourself. I looked forward to having my martial arts advised by you."

"Sure." Zhen Hui still focused on cleaning up the clothing.

Zhen Yong knew his temperament and took no offense. He turned to Meng Qi, saying, "Junior Brother Zhen Ding, as you have the foundation of Iron Shirt, Golden Bell Shield is a wonderful choice, but why not Vajra Unbreakable Force? It is even better, and there's no contradiction."

Meng Qi would certainly not use Xuan Bei's explanation to scoff at himself again. He smiled and said, "My master chose it for me. I don't know the reason either."

"Aye, Uncle Xuan Bei is a sublime master. He must have a significant reason." Zhen Yong nodded and smiled again. "Senior Brothers, I assume I can often count on your help when the occasion comes."

"Certainly." Meng Qi did not want to be troubled by this topic. He looked at the dark night outside the window. "Senior Brother Zhen Yong, is there anything important that happened during the time I was isolated?"

Zhen Ding thought for a moment. "There is one thing. Martial Uncles have come to select apprentices, but it has nothing to do with you. Ah, there is another thing. Senior Brother Zhen Chang has broken through Bronzemen Lane, and went downhill to peregrinate."

"Senior Brother Zhen Chang? Bronzemen Lane?" Meng Qi recalled a lanky young monk, who was the strongest one among the "Zhen" generation. He was also a part-time Teaching Monk in the Warrior-monk Yard, but his sparring partners were warrior monks practicing in Luohan Formation.

The first time that he saw him, Meng Qi had only one thought:

"This guy would be a wonderful actor to cast as Tang Seng. He has red lips and white teeth, slender and tall, and as gentle as a young scholar, the favorite type for female demons."

But after Zhen Yong's introduction, he finally knew it was him whose name was Zhen Chang, the strongest one among the "Zhen" generation.

Zhen Yong nodded his head assertively. "Yes. After a period of hermetic training, Senior Brother Zhen Chang has enlightened his Ear Aperture and accomplished the primary level of Luohan Exorcism Fist and Prajna Palm. Then he directly broke through Bronzemen Lane, becoming the youngest peregrinating disciple ever."

"He's done that with only Ear Aperture opened?" Meng Qi remembered what Jiang Zhiwei had mentioned, that she, with Four Acupores of ears and eyes opened, had no better odds above six out of ten to break through Bronzemen Lane. Zhen Chang had opened just Ear Aperture. How could he have made it?

Zhen Yong looked out of the window, and said with suppressed voice, "I heard that his battle with Bronzemen was very intense. He almost lost, but managed to pass with a bit of luck."

"So was it." Meng Qi reacted thoughtfully.

Zhen Yong went on, "Senior Brother Zhen Chang is the first monk to enter the enlightenment period among our 'Zhen' generation. He was able to open his Ear Aperture earlier, but because he was far stronger than Brothers Zhen Ben and Zhen Miao, he delayed the hermetic training for the tourney, though he was eventually defeated by Jiang Zhiwei of the Sword Washing Pavilion. Now that he made the progress after the hermetic training, it was natural for him to pass the Lane."

According to Shaolin's rules, Zhen Chang, as the first who entered the enlightenment period, should be entitled the Eldest Brother in the "Zhen" generation.

With a curious air, Meng Qi inquired the details about Bronzemen Lane. After he was contented with the information, he took his luggage and left the meditation room.

Zhen Yong had bid them an enthusiastic goodbye. After Meng Qi and Zhen Hui slowly went out to the gate of the yard, they looked back, seeing many meditation rooms that still had candles lit. They could vaguely feel the stares of many warrior monks. Icicles under the eaves reflected the moonlight, crystal and shining, and evoked a feeling of unspeakable coldness.

...

"Master, where are we going?" After the early class next morning, Meng Qi was taken by Xuan Bei towards the back of the mountain.

Is the special training place some cave hidden in the back of the mountain?

Xuan Bei's cassock fluttering with the breeze, he looked to the front. "I have asked Senior Brother Xuan En for your leave. Now you don't need to go to the Chant Hall during these days. You shall focus on Golden Bell Shield, refine your foundation as soon as possible. Literacy is not as important, and I can help you with it later."

"Yes, Master." Meng Qi was becoming familiar with the landscape as they went further. He looked around and said, "Am I going to practice Golden Bell Shield in the back of the mountain?"

He had experienced an ordeal exactly here "before long", fighting Tang Shun, the Cosmos Juggler. Afterward, he obtained the impartation of Ananda Oath-breaking Bladesmanship through the Gist of Trueness in the secret passage.

Xuan Bei gently nodded. "Correct, you will know when we get there. Did you read the scripture of Golden Bell Shield thoroughly last night?"

"I read it three times and already started to practice," answered Meng Qi honestly.

He wasted no time, and utilized every passing second to practice the first section of Golden Bell Shield, trying to re-concentrate his Dantian Acupoint.

Xuan Bei stopped talking and advanced silently. Meng Qi closely followed. They passed a narrow road between two walls of cliffs, and for the first time, he stepped into the real back mountain.

Mountains overlapped with each other. Some strange peaks stuck out frequently, but within their sight, no grass grew. The earth was crimson red as if it had been irrigated with blood.

"It is said that a few years before Patriarch Dharma joined Nirvana, he had an intense battle with a mighty devil here. The Pure Earth he created was destroyed, and many Spellbound Frames was shattered. So this place became what you see now." Having noticed Meng Qi's wonder, Xuan Bei started to speak. "Afterwards, divine monks of each generation all buried their Buddha's relics inside the stupa here, thus we suppressed this diabolic place with Buddhist power, and enabled disciples below the Exterior level to walk on this land."

Stepping on the "bloody land", Meng Qi felt attacked by a chill from underneath, then a bloody scene appeared in his mind: mountains of corpses, seas of blood, and myriads of severed limbs, putrid flesh, evil ghosts, and sky-scraping devils.

"Amitabha Buddha." A solemn calling of Buddha's name made all kinds of illusion disappear. The sunlight was still bright, yet there was nothing green.

"Disciples coming here for the first time all have an illusion of being haunted. You will be okay if you settle down your heart," Xuan Bei said avuncularly.

Meng Qi nodded, but his heart was still frightened and petrified. This was a similar feeling as when he touched the stone door, which had the inscription "A person who is loyal and kind better not enter this door". Yet the illusion this time was less verisimilar and scary, and had not yet made his back ooze a cold sweat.

Is there any connection?

Having bypassed several hillocks and passes, which were guarded by some Yellow-robed monks and Elders, Xuan Bei took Meng Qi to the highest peak of the back of the mountain. As they were walking, Meng Qi started to see green, as well as pristine streams flowing down from above, forming dozens of puddles, in which strange golden lotuses teemed, blooming despite the wintry coldness.

Walking through this mountain, Meng Qi's body and soul felt unusually tranquil, carefree, and oblivious of all troubles.

After some more guarded passes, Meng Qi saw an iridescent pagoda with a luminescent glaze. It had seven floors, but was not very tall.

"Amitabha." At the door guarded an Elder in a cassock. He announced the Buddha's name, verified the token of Xuan Bei, and let him and Meng Qi go without asking much.

"The training place is inside the stupa... " Meng Qi secretly muttered but dared not speak. He followed Xuan Bei silently into the tower.

"The seven floors above ground are shrines for Sariras, while the seven floors underground are for suppressing demons and devils," Xuan Bei said with a placid tone. He pushed open a stone door inscribed with Swastika Seals all over.

The instant the stone door opened, a pungent and exotic scent blew onto Meng Qi's face, inducing him to shudder. He found difficulty in harmonizing his breath and had discomfort all over his body.

"That is Demon's Odor," Xuan Bei narrated as a conscientious master.

Having forborne his discomfort and inhibited his shudder, Meng Qi followed Xuan Bei forward with steady steps.

Xuan Bei lowered his head slightly. After they bypassed some corners, he stopped beside a cell, in which lay a giant bird with blazing plumes.

Meng Qi felt he was being burned standing beside the cell. He looked forward, and found the air distorted somehow. The whole space seemed to be shaking. A cell farther beyond was emanating coldness with bluish crystals frozen on the ground.

"This is the Fire Swan, which has the blood of Ancient Genuine Phoenix. You practice the first section of Golden Bell Shield here, with the help of the Swan's Qi." Xuan Bei asked Meng Qi to practice outside this cell.

Meng Qi clenched his teeth and pulled down his frock to his waist. Then he sat down with his legs crossed. In front of him was an iron rail inscribed with light golden symbols. Resisting the high temperature, Meng Qi started to recite the heart sutras of the first section of Golden Bell Shield.