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With the eastward advancement of Buddhism, eight mahayana schools and two hinayana schools were gradually derived from it. Together, they were known as the Buddhist Ten Schools. Later on, the hinayana ones declined, making them Eight Buddhist Schools instead.

These eight schools were all based on the ancient Buddhism, from where they extended and mixed with much local culture, which then gave birth to these new sects.

The journey of Buddhism's expansion into this eastern country was not a smooth one. There were as many as four Buddhism-abolishing campaigns in written records alone, which took place during the reign periods of Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei, Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou, Emperor Wuzong of Tang, and Emperor Shizong of Later Zhou. Together, these campaigns were known as "Disasters of Three Wu and One Zong".

The reasons behind these events were no more than the following three: the ruling class's need to consolidate their power, the strife between Taoism and Buddhism, and Buddhism reaping what it had sown.

Take Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei as an example. The man was not a Buddhism-hater in the beginning, but then a vassal came along, whose name was Cui Hao, a Taoist disciple whose master was Kou Qianzhi.

The teacher and pupil had won the trust of Emperor Taiwu, and in order to make Taoism the one and only supreme religion, Cui Hao pressed for the abolishment of Buddhism. At a glance, he seemed to be the cause of the event, but the calamity was actually brought by the degenerated Buddhist community itself.

At the early stage of Buddhism abolishment, Emperor Taiwu was not particularly harsh with it. However, two years into the campaign, he was leading an army fighting in the fields and went to Chang'an to reorganize his troops, when he caught his attendants sharing meat and liquor with some monks of a temple.

Finding this conduct inappropriate, he sent soldiers to examine the temple, where they found numerous weapons and a considerable amount of liquor. Also stashed away in the temple were treasured belongings of dignitaries, as well as back rooms where the monks fornicated with women.

The discovery infuriated the emperor. An imperial edict followed, ordering the elimination of Buddhism. Buddhist statues, temples, and scriptures were destroyed; monks were buried alive regardless of how young or old they were. As expected, Cui Hao did not get to die in his own bed, either. He was later executed on Emperor Taiwu's command.

In Buddhist terms, these were the "internal cause" and the "latent effect".

Taoism had its own expression on such matter: Misery and happiness had no door—if either came, one brought it upon themselves.

Or in Xiaozhai's words, the stupid monks had it coming.

"Unlike the Taoist community, which has been declining ever since the Song Dynasty, Buddhism thrived in the later dynasties despite all the disasters it went through."

On the large bed, Xiaozhai and Gu Yu lay in each other's arms. It was supposed to be an intimate picture, but the words coming out of their mouths were of an completely irrelevant subject.

"These past few months, I've visited Shaolin Temple, Daci'en Temple, Huayan Temple, Guoqing Temple… I almost saw them all, apart from the birthplace of Esoteric Buddhism. I found mostly commonly published Buddhist scriptures and they were not particularly substantial, but I did learn a thing or two.

Chan Buddhism is all about sitting in meditation. 'Look into your heart and see the Buddha on enlightenment'.

Pure Land Buddhism chants the name of Buddha. Get rid of the vile spawn, straighten out the karma, and you move on blissfully to the Pure Land.

Vinaya School focuses on precept itself. One could only achieve the enlightenment after themselves are cleansed.

Huayan School believes in Dharmadhatu Pratityasamutpada and 'perfect interfusion'..."

"Stop right there. What the hell is Dharmadhatu Pratityasamutpada?" Gu Yu interrupted.

"It means all phenomena inside and out of the world are representations of the wisdom of Buddha without exception. Without this wisdom, no phenomenon will exist." Xiaozhai offered a brief explanation. Seeing that he still looked confused, she used her own words. "The heart says, 'let there be light', and light there is!"

"Ok, I think I get it." Gu Yu was enlightened.

"The doctrine of Huayan sets the foundation of all eight schools. Theories of various schools including Faxiang 1 , Sanlun 2 , and Tiantai all share some similarities. You only need to know one concept: alayvijnana…"

She sat up, leaning against the white wall with her legs slinging over her boyfriend's waist. "Men have five consciousnesses to begin with, that is eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body consciousnesses. The sixth is mental consciousness and the seventh manas, or the subconscious. The eighth is alayvijnana.

The concept is rather abstract. It is the collective body of all human nature and delusions, and where the seeds of good and evil are embedded. Every idea, intention, spoken word, or conduct of every individual creates a seed of future karma. Before the seeds are retributed, they all hide in alayvijnana…"

She was a straight-A student at heart and an enthusiast of theoretical knowledge; she was able to explain the profound theory in simple terms.

Gu Yu listened attentively and suddenly sat up. "I get it! First of all, you have to believe in Buddha and karma. Karma is hidden in alayvijnana, which gives birth to numerous Dharmadhatu. Everyone is a prisoner of karma and everything one does has its karmic consequences, which determines whether you're going to hell or Pure Land after you're dead."

"Very good generalization!" Xiaozhai offer her praise and added, "In order to go to Pure Land, one has to work on karma as well as believe in Buddha. The former is the internal force and the latter the external one. Buddha will give you a hand to help you reach the heaven. Should you decide to do evil, karma will catch up with you once you drop dead and you are going to burn in hell."

"Tsk, Buddhists are so idealistic! By this standard, the masters nowadays are definitely not qualified enough." Gu Yu shook his head.

Taoist theory was that man was an integral part of nature and the Great Dao itself an imitation of nature. With the Great Dao as their ultimate goal, one would blaze trails and break paths, advancing bravely and never giving in. If one was fortunate enough to reach the state of Heavenly Immortal, they would share the glory of the universe for eternity.

Buddhism asked for one's faith first. Only after one believed in it would Buddha give one the strength. The level of cultivation was also related to Buddhist doctrine. The more advanced the doctrine, the more capable the cultivator. However, after all those centuries, many of the Buddhist skills must have been lost as well. With a general mood even more degenerated than the Taoist community's, real masters were very hard to come by. More importantly, even if one managed to go to Pure Land, it would only bring them to Buddha himself in his land; no immortality of oneself was mentioned.

"Anyway, I didn't get to see any magical tricks. It was so boring… hey, do you know what was the most interesting thing happened to me this time?" Before he could answer, Xiaozhai revealed it herself. "I have indeed ran into an old monk in Xiaoji Temple. He had some profound knowledge of Buddhist theories and told me a lot of stuff, like 'good and evil will always be rewarded, it's karma', blah blah.

I was like 'Damn it, I've done nothing evil, but my boyfriend has. Will he go to hell after he dies?'"


Gu Yu choked on his own spit. 'Is this woman really my girlfriend?'

"The master taught me 'a fault confessed is half redressed.' I said sometimes it couldn't be helped. One's got to fight back to make oneself happy.

The master then said if one committed the ten evil deeds, they would end up in the realms of Hell, Hungry Ghost, and Animal 3 . It would be an eternal damnation; no rebirth."

"Then what did you say?" Gu Yu was curious.

She did not answer, but asked back, "How would you respond if you were there?"

Gu Yu gave it some thought. "I've killed people, I'm not planning to repent, and I'm going to hell. In that case… in that case, I should simply stay alive forever!"

"Hahaha!" Xiaozhai broke into laughter at this. Clinging onto him, she panted slightly. "That was my answer, word for word!"


Gu Yu laughed with her. That was probably why they became a couple.

Dusk had set in already. The window next to the bed was half open, letting in the dim sunlight through the wide open curtains, painting the floor with a soft hue. Downstairs, the husband seemed to have returned with the kid. There was child voice of calling for food and the landlady's coaxing and comforting words.

It took Xiaozhai quite a while to stop laughing. When she raised her head and looked at the man again, there was an urge in her eyes. They connected, they understood each other, and there was love in the air; it couldn't be helped.

She sat up, her long legs swept across the air and she was straddling on his waist.


Gu Yu swayed backwards. He propped himself up with both hands and looked resigned.

"I'm about to commit fornication."

"It's broad daylight. Can't you wait?"


He got a breeze in reply. With a wave of Xiaozhai's hand, the curtain was drawn all the way to the other end and the room dimmed right away. She stretched out and bit Gu Yu's neck.

"Daylight or not, the basic needs can't wait, can they?"

The following day.

There were more than a dozen farm-stay businesses, most of which were deserted by now. One of the largest courtyards was littered with daily supplies and garbage, along with two hens that nobody bothered to get rid of. Right now, they were strolling the courtyard in the most careless fashion.


One of them seemed to have spotted a worm and ran happily towards it, but it did not make if far before someone lifted it off the ground.

The hen didn't even get a chance to flap it wings before it was knocked out and stuffed into a bag. The other one shared this fate. Immediately after that, two hen-stealing thieves snuck out the courtyard and headed straight towards Flaming Mountain—they were none other than Gu Yu and Xiaozhai themselves.

They went up the mountain with the bag and reached the cave, above which the giant rock still hang. The sun was not yet at the right position and the entrance was still hidden in the shadow.

"The passage inside is too narrow and we can only crawl in and out. If only it could be a bit wider, we'd be able to go straight in and get the puppets out," said Gu Yu.

"Expand the entrance first, or it might be in our way later." Xiaozhai examined the entrance and suggested.

"Step back."

Gu Yu moved closer in a few strides and activated his mental force. Seven refined Flaming Cloud Needles materialized in front of him, blazing resplendently with their scarlet glow. Controlling the magical instruments, Gu Yu arranged them into a single file end to end. Together, they resembled a magnificent, shiny dagger.


The dagger thrusted forward abruptly, stabbing into the mountain wall by sheer force until it disappeared completely into the rock. Right away, the wall shook with a crackling sound and rubble and dust started showering down.


A large piece of rock smashed onto the ground and there was a giant opening above the entrance of the cave.

"That should be wide enough."

Xiaozhai blindfolded the two hens and tied some tough ropes around their bodies. She then sliced her finger across their necks; blood oozed out right away.

"Cluck… cluck…"

The hens squawked in pain. They flapped their wings with all their effort, but could not break free no matter what.

Xiaozhai ducked down, aimed into the cave, and swung the hens in. The moment they touched the ground, their squawk was even more awful as they rushed around blindly like maniacs.

Chickens usually ran in circles, but animal instinct told them that a couple of powerful auras were guarding the way they came from. They dared not turn around and could only run forward.

"Cluck… cluck…"

The two waited outside as the sound grew weaker. Neither of them was confident that they would be able to lure the bug out.

In less than twenty seconds, the pitch of the clucks erupted and the rops started shaking violently.


Gu Yu's face lit up.

They started pulling the ropes right away, which were soon out of the cave. The hens were skeletons by now, with a few black bugs hanging onto them.

The black bugs seemed to sense the danger. They started scuttling back before they were completely out of the cave. Xiaozhai stretched out her gloved long arm, and with a sweep, she had caught one between her fingers.

The bug squeaked and opened its lotus-shaped mouthpart, ready to spurt out the venom. With a sizzling sound, a tiny streak of lightning drilled into its chest.

The black bug froze on the spot, suppressed by the overwhelming and fierce power of thunder, and dared not move at all.

She put it carefully into a sack and covered it safely away from sunlight. They could not bear to have such a disgusting creature in their wooden box—it might give them a psychological toll.

It was not that Gu Yu could not catch one on his own, but he wouldn't know what to do with it even if he did. He was never a scholar type and did not know the rare and odd inheritance as his girlfriend did.

The same night, in the hotel.

Lights were on in the small courtyard, which looked especially conspicuous and melancholic among the surrounding darkness. Somehow, the affectionate landlady and her husband were quarrelling tonight, which was mixed with the crying of the child. They did not care there were still guests upstairs.

Of course, those two did not actually care about what was going on, for they had shut themselves up in the room studying the black bug.

The table was matted with two layers of thick cloth. Xiaozhai sat at the table and opened the sack. She then patted the table. The bug dared not even make a sound at the energy of thunder and crept out obediently.

It was the size of a fist, had eight long, barbed legs, a gigantic mouthpart, and protruding eyes that resembled the compound eyes of flies.

Xiaozhai turned it this way and that for quite a while and found nothing out of the ordinary. She then drew her dagger and cut down.


The head of the bug fell down and rolled to one side. Black liquid spurted out, dampening the cloth. She observed the contaminated cloth and concluded, "It's not erosive, but could be poisonous. This does not look like blood. How strange…"

As she mumbled, her hand moved swiftly, cutting down all eight long legs, then split its stomach open along a thin line on its chest.


Both were taken by surprise, for the inside of the bug was hollow. There were no internal organs, no bones, no blood or flesh.

"That's against common sense!"

Frowning, Xiaozhai fell silent in vexation.

"Well, do you think it's possible that this is the legendary corpse bug?" Gu Yu asked.

"No, it's not that. I've read about those in my master's collection. There was a detailed description on them." Xiaozhai disagreed and explained, "Corpse bugs feed on dead bodies, but they still have a normal biological structure and belong to the natural world. This black bug, on the other hand, seems like a creature raised by some secret skill… hey, did you say the cave was full of puppets?"


"What was in the puppet?"

"I didn't get a close look. I think it was a dead baby."

"Dead baby, dead baby…" she muttered to herself and only spoke again after a long time, "There is a possibility: the dead bodies were the substrate of the bugs. There is no such creature in natural world and they could only be created by baby corpses and the secret skill. Taoism would not take such approach. I think it looks like something related to sorcery… hey, look here!"

She had turned the bug round and round but found nary a clue. She was about to cut open that head when she stopped.

"Check out the back of its head. Does the shape and the pattern look like a ghostly face to you?"

Gu Yu looked at it. It indeed resembled a tiny yet hideous ghostly face. Moreover, there were two red dots as well, which were right where the eyes should be.

Tsk! It suddenly dawned on him that the two encounters he had were both red-eyed ghostly faces!

"Can it be a coincidence?" he mumbled.

"Of course not!" Xiaozhai was quick to react. She fumbled out a pen and started drawing. "You fought with ghostly faces, the puppets had ghostly faces, and so does the bug. Those sorcery practitioners love their totems and this could well be their emblem. I've heard of plenty of sky-, earth-, water-, and fire-worshipers, but ghost-believers…"

She tossed the pen aside and pressed her hand on the vivid drawing of a ghostly face. "That's something only Shamanism would do!"

TL/N: "Dharma Characteristics" TL/N: "Three Treatise" ED/N: One of the Buddhist beliefs includes reincarnation, which takes place in one of the... six, iiirc... realms. Hell, Hungry Ghost, and Animal are three of those realms.

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