Chapter 46: Mystic Arts Temple (1)
When night fell, the three of them had already passed by Mount Thousand Buddha and were preparing to turn back to their original route, once again journeying towards the realm of Mount Thousand Buddha.
They hoped they could draw out the ghost cultivator when the sky darkened.
However, things didn’t go as they wished—the sky changed abruptly.
Dark clouds pushed towards them in the air from a far off distance. A gale swirled, raising the dust on the ground to fly upwards. The wind shook and swayed the mountain’s forest.
The three of them reined in their steeds in the middle of the main route, stopping to take in the surrounding wilderness and shifting weather.
Zhang Shucheng frowned and said, “Judging by the weather, it’s going to rain heavily soon. There’s no village ahead and no inn behind, looks like we’ll be facing some trouble.”
Mo Shengtu waved the horsewhip, pointing it towards the front. “On the way here, I remember there’s a fork on the main route up ahead, with a small grassy path that leads to the mountain. There seemed to be traces of a rut on the road. Under normal circumstances, carriages don’t normally travel into the mountains, so surely there must be a residence or a place to rest over there. It would be better to go take a look.”
Zhang Shucheng looked at Miao Yi and smiled, “Brother Miao, what do you think?”
Miao Yi nodded his head, replying, “Sure!”
Together, the three men agreed on Mo Shengtu’s suggestion and immediately galloped forward on their steeds.
After galloping to the middle of a valley, they slowed down their speed and examined their surroundings. As expected, they discovered a small, deserted path on the right side of the main route. Even though it was already buried by weeds, they could still easily distinguish the traces of ruts.
Seeing that the sky was already filled with dark clouds hanging overhead, the three of them didn’t hesitate any longer. They changed course, their galloping steeds increasing speed as they went. They followed the path, continuously galloping onwards.
Not long after, the three of them then spotted a residence with a large courtyard up ahead among the foothills. It seemed to be a temple...
Moving closer to the foot of the hill, the three men found themselves in a flagstone plaza which occupied around a dozen mu.
The top of the plaza was completely leveled flat, its outer rim decorated with stone carved banisters. One could see on both sides, left and right, the indistinct traces of a collapsed building.
In the center of the plaza was a massive old-fashioned cauldron, full of stains and with traces of rust. It was a censer.
Although it was filled with desolation, overgrown with weeds that filled the small cracks in the flagstones beneath their feet, it was evident that this place had once seen a golden age of incense.
Having suddenly found themselves placed in such a leveled plaza in a barren mountain, without rhyme or reason the trio were overcome with feelings of insignificance. The temple built beside the mountain ahead also gave them a sense of oppression.
Dark clouds hung low in the sky, and an abrupt crack of thunder broke out with a ‘BANG’. The mounts beneath the three men fidgeted about, neighing in alarm, but their movements were eventually subdued by the three of them pulling in their reins.
The muffled rumble of thunder rolled past above their heads, and a few cracks of lightning flashed in the sky on top of the temple in front. The weather was already very gloomy, yet the flashes of lightning as well as the rolls of thunder suddenly made the temple’s appearance even more conspicuous.
On an aged tree within the high walls of the temple, a flock of old ducks were frightened off by the sudden claps of thunder, quacking as they flew around in circles.
Everything proved that this entire place really was an uninhabited desolated temple.
Zhang Shucheng cast a glance at the two men at his sides and said, “It’ll be pouring rain soon, so for now we should first take shelter from the rain inside the temple!”
A small brook flowed in between the plaza and the temple built by the mountain, with three connecting stone arch bridges built side by side. Zhang Shucheng took the lead and ran towards it while Miao Yi and Mo Shengtu followed suit from behind, pulling along the goods-carrying horse. The sharp and clear sounds of clattering horse hooves resounded from the flagstone surface, causing the echos to reverberate indistinctly.
Arriving at the base of the mountain, Zhang Shucheng did not dismount from his steed. He immediately galloped the horse up the flight of stairs, and the two men behind him similarly followed suit.
Within the temple surroundings, there grew an ancient pagoda tree, which looked to be thousands of years old. It was illuminated under the beam of lightning that flashed amidst the gloomy clouds in the sky, resembling a glaring Vajrapani staring straight at them.
The three of them stood side by side, looking on at the three words ‘Mystic Arts Temple’ hung over the temple’s tall gates. It had become so mottled it was practically difficult to distinguish its details. As for the courtyard gate, no one had any idea as to where it ended up. Probably it had long rotted away from being exposed to the sun and blowing wind.
The surrounding courtyard walls had become battered, and perhaps it was due to the ancient pagoda that blocked all sunlight from shining inside, but the walls were unexpectedly lacking in things such as vines and weeds.
Zhang Shucheng dismounted from his horse, leading it inside the temple. The two men behind him also did the same.
The moment they entered the temple, the three once again halted in their tracks. There were a few ancient pagoda trees inside, their old branches engorged and twisting grotesquely. Each tree was so ancient and immense in their size, even three people holding hands together wouldn't be unable to reach around and hug one. Each side of the temple had their own pond, roughly about the size of one mu. And towering above each pond was a stone statue of Arhat. The Arhat statue on the left was missing its head, its location unknown.
Once they stepped through the courtyard gate, they could sense a cool breeze hit them right in the face, causing them to feel a little disquieted by the whole situation. Their horses were also beginning to become anxious and panicky.
Looking at the shabby temple’s entrance that was wide-open for all to enter, Mo Shengtu drew in a long breath and commented, “The Yin energy here is too strong.”
“These ancient pagoda trees grow along with old residences, which of course made it easier to amass Yin energy,” Zhang Shucheng replied casually.
Although he said that, the three of them still invoked their arts at their own discretion, using their transcendence vision to sweep the surroundings.
Under normal circumstances, if there were any forms of spirits and ghosts truly in here, the ordinary human eye wouldn’t be able to see them. But to the cultivators equipped with transcendence vision, such beings are unable to remain concealed.
The truth proved that they had been thinking too much. After using their transcendence vision to sweep the surroundings, they did not discover any evil forces.
Bang! Up in the sky, the crack of thunder once again resounded explosively. Under the illuminating beam of lightning, the contrast against the shadows added to the eerie and frightful feeling hanging over the desolate temple.
At the same time, large droplets of rain began to fall, pelting onto the ground with a series of ‘tap tap tap’ sounds, splashing the surface of both ponds into round ripples.
Zhang Shucheng smiled humbly, saying, “Right now we indeed have no better place to go, so let’s just put up with this!” He went ahead, leading his steed along into the direction of the grand hall.
Mo Shengtu and Miao Yi exchanged glances, and were forced to follow behind. The trio trampled the weeds growing from the small cracks in the floor tiles. A soft, rustling sound could be heard as they treaded on the dried leaves.
After pulling the horse to the hallway of the grand hall and tying it to a stone pillar underneath, Zhang Shucheng walked over to the old pagoda tree in the courtyard, dragging a large dried up branch into the temple. The branch was found lying on the base of the tree, most likely broken off by the blowing of a gale..
A downpour had already started outside and the sky had completely darkened. A fire within the grand hall was stoked to a small blaze.
Using the light source from the flames, they could see traces of a previous fire being made there before, and not just at one spot. Mo Shengtu laughed, “Looks like this really is a place where passing travellers will stop to rest.”
Miao Yi stood for a long time, carrying the silver spear in his hand. Using the light from the fire, he directed his gaze at the aloof and remote, magnificent Buddha statue right in the middle of the temple.
Already, the golden body of the Buddha status had almost completely faded away. And so, that greatly merciful and compassionate deity, yet to deliver all living beings from suffering, had reversed to become more sinister in appearance.
Mo Shengtu, who was huddling in front of the open fire, suddenly lightly touched Zhang Shucheng. Both of them glanced at Miao Yi before mutually exchanging a meaningful look, then nodding their heads in secret.
It was at this exact moment that the three of them seemed to hear something. They turned their heads to look outside the gate.
All of a sudden, a series of shouts travelled from outside the temple, “Quick, take shelter from the rain. Quick, take shelter from the rain...”
They caught sight of a man using both hands to hold a large iron cooking pot over his head in order to block the incoming rain. On his body, he carried a large bundle of items. He hurriedly rushed into the temple, and in a single breath, ran into the shrine.
Clanging sounds emitted from the man as he went. He had a complete gamut of all sorts of things, ranging from pots, bowls, ladles, basics and the like. After entering, he only briefly assessed the three men, before turning to face outside, shouting loudly, “It’s alright! Come in!”
The three men followed after to look, only to see a middle-aged scholar running in as well, carrying a basket on his back. The downpour already made him look like a drowned rat, with the long robe on his body thoroughly drenched.
Following closely behind were two sturdy laymen, lifting a soft palanquin as they ran in. On the soft palanquin were poles to support a light pink muslin shroud, through which the lithe figure of a woman half-reclining could be faintly seen.