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Home > The Sage Who Transcended Samsara

140 The Fulfillment of the Fifth Round

 The demonic atmosphere that could make the whole of Heavenly Sea Source tremble only affected Meng Qi and the others from a mental standpoint. It was not truly ubiquitous; it was as if he was holding back from his attack, not wanting to draw the attention of the high monks of Lanke Temple.

Meng Qi's guessed the latter. A demonic cult that could rule over an entire "Arcadia" would have their signature Magical Arms, like the Ananda blade of Shaolin or the Sword Washing Pavilion's Sword of Idicide.

But Meng Qi was not about to ask for trouble by shooting his mouth off and confronting them on why they hadn't used their Magical Arms yet. He supported Gu Changqing and Zhen Hui with his hands and followed the steady-paced Hong Neng as they walked along the river, heading towards the blue lake.

The lake, situated in the highlands, defied Dharma and Logos, thrusting upwards instead of flowing down. By the time Meng Qi and Hong Neng arrived at the highland, the sky had suddenly turned bright. After a second look, they realized that the obscenely large arctic fox had disappeared. And in its place, bizarrely, stood a temple that was neither grand nor sophisticated. The sound of the bell spread in the distance.

A narrow path that wound down from atop the temple was in front of them, as if awaiting Meng Qi and the others to follow.

Hong Neng inhaled and slowly got down on his knees and kowtowed heavily to pay his respects, murmuring his Buddhist name.

"Senior Brother Hong Neng?" Meng Qi asked in confusion.

After the arctic fox had disappeared, Gu Changqing and Zhen Hui gradually recovered. They too were looking at Hong Neng in confusion.

Hong Neng smiled calmly and said, "When I first stepped into a temple, I pledged that anytime I enter a temple, I'd kowtow every three steps to pay respect."

"But isn't it only a hallucination?" Meng Qi asked, furrowing his brows.

Hong Neng smiled and shook his head, "The temple is in my heart, not in some place. And as long as I can 'see' it, then it's a real temple."

"Ah... right." Meng Qi still didn't fully understand.

Hong Neng glanced at Meng Qi and said, "Shaolin is Zen. And isn't there a phrase that goes something along the lines of 'Buddhist by nature'? Which means that though this rustic temple is not in tune with the path, I, as a monk feel its presence, not on this shore nor any other shore. Not anywhere but in my heart."

Meng Qi nodded slightly, recalling the concept of the Yangming clan; nothing exists beyond the mind. He no longer doubted Hong Neng's choice.

CLUNK!

The sound of the bell travelled far into the distance and Hong Neng kowtowed devoutly every three steps. Meng Qi, however, had never made such a pledge nor did he possess a true Buddhist heart, so he just followed quietly and enjoyed the serenity.

This kind of peace was not from the various Buddhas from the heavens nor the reading of the Buddhist scripts. It was from the devotion displayed by Hong Neng.

The mountain path was long, but Hong Neng did not show a hint of impatience. As they were walking, Meng Qi started preparing his Golden Bell Shield. It wasn't that he wanted to battle anyone, but he had nothing better to do. He might as well practice and see if he could consummate the fifth stage. Only by consummating the fifth stage and beginning to cultivate the sixth stage could he concentrate on his nasal acupores and other correlating Aperture acupoints. Otherwise he would stagnate.

During the enlightenment period, the fifth stage of the Golden Bell Shield correlated to the Eye Apertures and Ear Apertures, whereas the sixth stage correlated to the Nose Aperture and Mouth Apertures. The seventh stage was the cultivation of front and back 'yin', completing a circuit of the body's inner heaven and earth. The eighth stage was the concentration on the Primal Aperture at Mid-brows, opening of the life-death Hidden Latch, and the amalgamation of the interior and exterior, including the breakthrough of the Half-step Exterior Scenery and the True Earth.

After walking for heaven knows how long, Meng Qi suddenly turned to Gu Changqing and Zhen Hui, and asked uncertainly, "Have you noticed that cultivating Qi here is extremely effective and fast? I only practiced for two hours, yet it was equivalent to a day's cultivation elsewhere."

"Really?" Gu Changqing was still immersed in the devout atmosphere. He had never thought to practice, so he was a little taken aback upon hearing Meng Qi's words. He then attempted Qi cultivating and surprisingly, concurred with Meng Qi, "You're right! This is a sanctuary for Qi cultivation!"

"Ditto, the mice are fast too." Zhen Hui nodded his head, looking satisfied and content.

Meanwhile, Hong Neng was still devoutly paying his respects, undistracted. He totally ignored their conversation.

Having confirmed his theory, Meng Qi was both shocked and happy. Wasting no time, he began cultivating his Qi. They were walking without any distractions or worry of fending off enemies.

A day had passed, the dark gold on his skin glistened. POW! POW! POW! The sound of frying beans meant his body was changing.

By the end of the day, the dark gold glow had fused into a bright light beaming straight to the sky, making Meng Qi look like a Luohan with the light of Buddha shining on him.

The light beam gradually retracted and Meng Qi opened his eyes. He knew that the fifth stage of his Golden Bell Shield had been successfully fulfilled. And since it was the Heavenly Thunder Energy and Qi that had strengthened his body, the true power of the Ananda Oath-breaking Bladesmanship coupled with the principles of Buddhism, making his body stronger than ever. Not only did his weak point at the Mid-chest disappear, the weak point at his back had been concentrated as well and it was no longer weak.

There remained only thirteen weak points left on his body. They were the Nine Innate Apertures, Dantian, Temple, mid-brow, and throat. These would disappear with the elevation of the levels of Golden Bell Shield. Before he claimed Dharmakaya, one weak point would still remain.

"A day's practice here is equivalent to a month's practice." Meng Qi said joyfully. His fifth stage had been close to consummation and there was still a month's practice left. He had never expected that the strife at Heavenly Sea Source would have turned into something so positive.

Hong Neng had been kowtowing along the whole way to the temple. Just as he was about to walk into the temple, the lake, ground and temple all started shaking. Then they disappeared like a puff of smoke.

Meng Qi looked around blankly, feeling a little perplexed. He could see only a deep valley with desolated gravel and a complex landscape. The land of charm and beauty he saw before had been nothing but a dream.

"Alas, it was all just a pipe dream... " Meng Qi sighed.

Hong Neng smiled and said, "The donors of the demonic cult abandoned the Heavenly Sea Source. I'll accompany you to the Tan Han oasis and then my job is done."

They had entered deep into the Tan Han, only a couple of hours away from the oasis.

"Haha, thanks to the ever mystical power of Senior Brother Hong Neng's 'Just Around the Corner', the demonic cult retreated." Meng Qi sincerely thanked Hong Neng.

Hong Neng put his palms together and replied humbly, "Amitabha, they still had some kindness left in their hearts. Hence, they decided to abort, otherwise, I'd have to hold on for half a day longer, which I'm not sure I could do."

Gu Changqing and Zhen Hui thanked Hong Neng as well. "When we get to Tan Han oasis, the Evil Ridge will be to the south, and to the east will be Quicksand Town, if we're discreet, we should be free from the horse bandits' pursuit."

Hong Neng thought of something and said, "A day in the mountain is equivalent to a thousand years in the real world. Though Heavenly Sea Source is not on the same level, it has a similar effect. Junior Brother Zhen Ding, I hope you haven't lost track of time."

"A day in the mountain is equivalent to a thousand years in the real world?" Meng Qi was initially shocked, then he understood. "No wonder practicing a day in the Heavenly Sea Source is equivalent to a month elsewhere. A month has actually gone by in the real world!"

Since a month has gone by, Shaolin's reinforcements should definitely have arrived by now. They might have even saved the Master and gone to the Jin Gang Temple to look for us.

Of course, this was great. He didn't need to be "brought" back to Shaolin and disappear for a month. The horse bandits probably thought they'd returned to the Central Plains and had stopped chasing after them. So as long as he took Junior Brother back to the foothills of Shaolin, he'd be like a dragon returning to the sea.

Thinking about this great turn of events, Meng Qi couldn't hold back his smile.

Not long after, the four of them reached the oasis and stepped into the town center. Owing to the fact that they had changed their appearances in the Fish Sea, their numbers had been reduced and the timing was wrong, Meng Qi was no longer afraid of being recognized. He asked Hong Neng to have some food with them at the inn.

Hong Neng smiled and shook his head, "Amitabha, fate has brought us together and now compels us to part. I, a poor monk, still have other matters to attend to, so this is good-bye."

Meng Qi knew he was an austere monk, so he didn't insist. He too put his palms together and said, "Amitabha, Senior Brother Hong Neng, if there's anything that I could be of assistance with, please do not hesitate."

"Of course, if fate has it that we shall meet again, I look forward to it." Hong Neng smiled as he looked at the three of them. Then he turned and walked away gracefully.

"Lanke Temple really is mysterious." Gu Changqing said with a sigh.

Meng Qi nodded in agreement, then smiled looking at the inn, "I haven't eaten meat in 'a month'. I can't wait!"

But in truth it is only a day... Gu Changqing's mouth twitched.

"Senior Brother, you've already reached the enlightenment of all the Acupores. According to the commandments, you shouldn't eat meat." Zhen Hui said to Meng Qi in a serious manner.

Meng Qi's expression suddenly froze. He didn't feel like a Shaolin Disciple.

AHEM, AHEM, AHEM. Meng Qi coughed and replied sternly, "Junior Brother, only when I go back to Shaolin and leave a record in the Sundries Yard and Commandment Yard, could I truly be enlightened and follow the commandments of the enlightenment period."

"Is that so?" Zhen Hui scratched his head in confusion.

"Yes, that's so." Meng Qi had a 'trust me' expression on his face.

"Okay then." Zhen Hui said joyfully, "Then what are we waiting for? Let's go!"

Meng Qi's smile emerged again. He walked into the inn first and found a quiet corner in the back, where it was easy to escape should anything happen. Then he ordered some roast lamb legs.

He tilted his head and twitched his ears slightly, so he could listen to the conversations of other patrons, catching up on a month's gossip.

Gu Changqing did the same. Though he hadn't opened his Ear Apertures yet, many were talking rather loudly so it wasn't difficult to hear. Only Zhen Hui was looking in the direction of the kitchen, waiting for the food.

"Is it true that the Jin Gang Temple has surrendered?"

"Of course. The Dharma King of Lun Kong, in charge of foreign affairs committed suicide. His body was placed before Shaolin's three divine monks, who said something about the Dharma King of Lun Kong being greedy and had sent a spy to learn the supreme arts of Shaolin. After he got caught, afraid of being exposed, he went to the Crying Elder, who was in isolation for hermetic training and coaxed him to go and kill the divine monk Xuan Bei. He wanted to cause a rift between the two temples, but who knew that not only would Xuan Bei survive, but he defeated the crying elder after fighting for 10 days. Though Xuan Bei was wounded quite severely himself, thanks to the battle, Xuan Bei actually broke through and reached the zenith, the Exterior. So, he had to commit suicide after his schemes had been exposed."

"Suicide? Even though the Dharma King of Lun Kong was a grandmaster who had reached the 7th Heaven of the Exterior, he still could not hide his dealings from the other masters. Haha, he deserved what he got. What did the three divine monks say?"

"What could they say? A grandmaster killed himself, the Jin Gang Temple had already paid their due, and Shaolin didn't really lose anything. So they just left things the way they are to keep the peace."

Having heard this, Meng Qi felt suddenly at ease. Not only was the Master okay, but he'd reached the zenith, the exterior. Fantastic!

"Where did the other two Shaolin Disciples go? After causing such a big disturbance in the Immensity Sea, they just disappeared. Could they have been caught and killed by the bandits of Evil Ridge?"

"Impossible! The day the two divine monks got to the Immensity Sea, any bandits with a reputation all went into hiding. Even the leaders of Evil Ridge with Eight Apertures and Nine Apertures opened went quietly into hiding, leaving only the 'Evil Bookster' Kang Zhi and another two leaders with Seven Apertures opened behind."

"You're right. If they had caught the Shaolin Disciples, why would they have killed Gu Changqing's parents and siblings?"

Suddenly, one of the chopsticks Gu Changqing had been holding dropped to the ground. His face had gone pale and his eyes were blank.

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