Book 16 Chapter 11 - Greedy For Life, Afraid Of Death
Xu Ziling followed behind Bu Chen, deep into the Temple complex, toward the rear courtyard.
From time to time along the way he saw some monks, but everybody acted as if they did not see him, as if they were deeply immersed in the ‘purified of defiling illusion' and religious life of ‘letting things take their own course' Buddhist doctrine.
After passing the Copper Hall, which glittered brilliantly under the sun, Bu Chen turned left toward a quaint flagstone path, lined with bamboo trees on both sides.
Hidden behind the bamboo trees on both sides of the path, he could see the buildings that were the monks' residences; plain and simple. Compared to the magnificent temple halls, the buildings exuded a completely different impression. But behind the pinewood frame and white plaster, there was some kind of raw, unpolished natural beauty.
While Xu Ziling was enjoying the deep, serene and faraway, the peaceful and quiet atmosphere of the monastery, the scenery changed. Houses were getting sparse, replaced by evergreen pine and cypress, and rugged stratified rocks. Walking along the stone path, he could see a stonewall ahead, engraved with two characters, ‘Fo Dao' [the way of the Buddha]. The stone cliffs on either side of the path grew higher and higher, while the path itself was getting narrower. There were images of Buddha carved on the stonewall on either side, which leaned against the low cliff, all with carefree demeanor, and were very vivid and lifelike.
While Xu Ziling was amazed at the scenery, the ‘Fo Dao' suddenly ended, the path suddenly opened up to a wide panorama.
At the western extremity of this monastery, a large hall, which size comparable to the seven main halls, engraved with the characters ‘Fangzhang Yuan' [abbot courtyard], was resting along the precipice, among the nine towering ridges of the mountain. It was strategically situated and easy to defend, the terrain was extremely dangerous.
Feeling something was amiss, Xu Ziling asked, "This ought to be the Zhuchi [person in charge/president/manager/director] of your honorable monastery Liao Kong Dashi's residence, isn't it?”
Bu Chen nonchalantly replied, "Shizhu wishes to see Miss Shi, naturally our Fangzhang ought to make the decision; why are you surprised?” [Translator's note: this is the only time the word Fangzhang (abbot) is being used, the rest are Zhuchi (see above) but for simplicity sake, I am going to use ‘Abbot' for both. (Besides, I feel weird calling Liaokong a ‘manager' or ‘president' of the Temple.]
Xu Ziling knew it would not be this easy to see Shi Feixuan. He could only sigh inwardly as he followed Bu Chen climbing the stairs to enter the courtyard.
The Abbot Courtyard was divided into three sections: front, center and rear. Entering the door, he was welcomed by a spacious but empty reception room. There was no furniture, only several portraits were hanging on two walls; apparently they were the portraits of the monastery's abbots throughout generations.
Bu Chen asked Xu Ziling to wait here, while he proceeded into the inner room.
Having nothing to do, Xu Ziling browsed the portraits on the wall. Although the portraits were all different, some were fat, some were thin, but the painting was meticulous and very detailed; the expressions were solemn, with an aura around the head of Buddha illuminating everything, the faces were kind, showing the appearance of great compassion and great sorrow of those who helped people from suffering and calamity. Next to each portrait was the caption, listing the name, the dates of taking the oath as a monk and entering the silence, and other pertinent information.
The portraits were obviously arranged according to their date of service. When looking at the last portrait on the left wall, Xu Ziling's heart was shaken; he walked closer to examine the portrait carefully. He saw an old monk whose beard and eyebrows were entirely white, with deep wrinkles crisscrossing his face. He appeared to be at least 70-something.
The reason Xu Ziling jumped in fright was because the portrait had at least 80, 90% resemblance to the current Abbot, Liao Kong; it would be the portrait of Liao Kong when he grew old.
While he was pondering whether the portrait was Liao Kong's father, which meant Liao Kong was inheriting his father's ‘cassock and alms bowl' [usually passed on by a Buddhist master to his favorite disciple], he was shocked to find that the inscription next to the portrait only listed the date of taking the oath, without the date of death. He could not help sucking in a mouthful of cold air.
Could it be that the old Liao Kong turned back into a child? From the old man in the portrait back to a man that looked to be in his forties? This fact was really extremely shocking.
Bu Chen's voice came from behind, "That is the portrait of our humble temple's Abbot fifteen years ago; at that time he had just entered the gate of Dhyana cultivation, hence he had someone paint the portrait.”
Xu Ziling sighed and said, "It's really hard to believe that there is indeed divine skill and secret method to recover one's youthful vigor in the world.”
Bu Chen called one of the many names of Buddha with clasped palms and said, "Dharma has no boundary; turn around and reach the shore. Our humble temple's Abbot is waiting respectfully for Xu Shizhu in the center courtyard. Please!”
Xu Ziling turned around and saw that Bu Chen did not show any intention to lead him in. Thereupon he had no choice but to cup his fist in salute to express his gratitude, and walk toward the center courtyard alone.
The wooden door closed behind him.
It was a ten-zhang deep and wide, three-zhang high empty room, with blank walls on all four sides.
Liao Kong was sitting cross-legged facing the wall, with his back against Xu Ziling.
There was a closed door on either side of this able-to-recover-his-youth, powerful-to-reverse-the-rotation-of-the-sky senior monk, exuding some kind of profound-mystery atmosphere.
With a wry smile on the corner of his lips, Xu Ziling spoke deferentially, "Dashi, please bestow your decree.”
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From the side hall Kou Zhong returned to the front reception hall; he was about to enter the main hall when he bumped into the graceful, cool and elegant ‘Beautiful Barbarian Lady' Linglong Jiao, who was always showing him dismissive attitude. Both sides did not expect to meet face to face on a narrow path like this. Having just received a bitter lesson from Dong Shuni, Kou Zhong struggled hard to control himself, and was only nodding as a courtesy to greet her.
Against his expectation, this barbarian beauty revealed a rarely seen smile toward him, and then walking side by side with him, she said, "Your battle at the Tianjin Bridge last night was really brilliant.”
Kou Zhong was stunned, "Miss Jiao is really formidable; unexpectedly you are able to fool so many people's eyes and ears by hiding nearby.”
Linglong Jiao returned to her cool and detached expression and she spoke indifferently, "Without this little bit of ability, how could I gather intelligence for Shangshu Daren?”
This woman was willing to converse with him; it was indeed a radical change of attitude.
Kou Zhong was thinking about finding other topic when from the inner hall Xu Xingzhi was walking out in a hurry. Seeing Kou Zhong, he signaled him with his eyes not to say anything, and the he saluted and said, "Daren is waiting for Kou Ye in the study room.”
Finished speaking he turned around and left.
Halting her steps, Linglong Jiao said, "Shangshu Daren must have something to discuss with you alone. I'll see you later.”
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Half a day later Kou Zhong came to the study room. Wang Shichong waited until he closed the door and sat down in an imperial tutor chair by his left before saying, "Fortunately last night you did not get beaten by the enemy. I had wanted to send people to help you, but we would only fall into their hands, it will be hard to keep up with them. Finally I could only hold back my troops without moving.”
And then he went on with a cold humph, "Yang Dong and Dugu Feng are too despicable.”
Kou Zhong pretended to praise him, saying, "Shangshu Daren, that was a brilliant move. Right now we need to show the enemy our weakness, in keeping with the School of the Military's main point of ‘sending up the troops, dispatching a scheme'. In term of strength, even with their tie to foreigner, the Dugu Clan still cannot do anything to us. Therefore, they can only rely on crafty plots and machinations to carry out their cold arrow stratagem. As long as we are a bit more careful, Dugu Feng can never prevail.”
Frowning, Wang Shichong said, "Because Qu Ao was routed, Tiele people may be disregarded. But supposing Yin Gui Pai, Tuli and Yang Gong join hands, do we want to maintain our passive situation? One thing goes wrong, we might lose the Eastern Capital.”
Remaining calm and unruffled in the midst of chaos, Kou Zhong said, "Tuli can also be disregarded, simply because my friend Ba Fenghan had just left Luoyang; no matter what, Tuli and Bixuan's two disciples must pursue him to join the excitement. Yin Gui Pai, because they have to deal with Shi Feixuan, their number one enemy, will not dare to be overtly involved in this conflict. Besides, to some extent, they wish you could put Li Mi in order. At that time, after Du Fuwei acquire Jiangdu, he will go up north along the Canal.”
Astonished, Wang Shichong asked, "How do you know Du Fuwei is going to attack Jiangdu?”
Naturally Kou Zhong did not wish to expose Song Jingang; he said, "I have a bit of friendly relations with the Song Family, later on today I will meet with Song Lu at the House of Dong restaurant.”
Relieved, Wang Shichong said, "This matter definitely gives me headache. The relationship between Du Fuwei and Shen Faxing has never been good, and now suddenly they become allies; it can clearly be seen how anxious they are about going up north.”
Nodding, Kou Zhong said, "The current situation is obviously the struggle for Yellow River and the Canal; whoever can obtain Guanzhong and Luoyang, two big strategic cities at the same time, will be akin to half of the country falling into his bag. We must first take Hulao, Xingyang, and then move the troops straight to the west. At that time when you, Shengshang [Your Majesty], give command to the world, who will dare not to obey?”
Wang Shichong twirled his moustache and smiled, his eyes were gleaming full of hope and excitement. "If I, Wang Shichong, become the lord of the new dynasty, you, Kou Zhong, will be the new dynasty's prime minister. Are you ready?” he said solemnly.
Kou Zhong mused inwardly that only a fool would believe you. But on the surface he put on a dreamy look as he said in delight, "Shangshu Daren holds this kid in such a high regard, I naturally am ten-thousand times grateful. But I want to set up a merit by defeating Li Mi first. At that time, when Shangshu Daren put me in important position, other people will have nothing to say.”
Wang Shichong chuckled loudly; and then putting on a mysterious expression he said, "Whether we can lure Li Mi into sending out his troops, it depends on tomorrow night's arrangement. Let me have you meet my body double first.”
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 School of the Military, one of the Hundred Schools of Thought of the Warring States Period (475-220 BC).