Book 29 Chapter 11 – Inaction and Action
Kou Zhong quietly left the creek. Applying his power to evaporate the water from his body; taking advantage of the bunch of demon Taoists and demon women were still discussing how to move Wang Shichong’s heart, he stealthily crept toward the rear court.
These past several years he and Xu Ziling have been hunted continuously to the border of the sky and the corner of the earth, they were forced by circumstances to become the top experts in escaping and hiding. Relying on effective senses and reaction, which far exceeded ordinary Wulin characters, he successfully evaded several demon Taoist sentries and reached the rear courtyard, lined with bamboo grove, where he hid behind a garden rockery and peeked outside.
The Emperor of Heaven does not turn his back on those who have the heart. The carriage that came from the Rong Mansion was indeed parked here. The problem was that the two Laojun Guan martial art masters were chatting close to the carriage.
These two men were around forty years old, both had high and swelling Taiyang acupoint [on the temples]; their eyes were spirited, their appearance looked strange and demonic. If they were wearing Taoist robe, then they were definitely demon Taoists. Slipping inside the carriage via the carriage door in front of their eyes was practically an impossibility.
The next best thing would be if he could hide at the bottom of the carriage.
From time to time the two horses pulling the carriage were blowing air and letting out low neigh; perhaps they were getting impatient due to the bitterly cold weather.
Kou Zhong frowned while trying to find an idea. He recalled Xu Ziling’s Treasured Vase Image. Copying Xu Ziling’s technique, he stretched his hand forward and extended his fingers while slowly gathering his power, concentrating his complete attention on the whooshing night wind at the same time.
Suddenly a strong gust of wind blew, brushing his back. By the time the cold wind blew through the rockery, it created a sharp whistling noise. Kou Zhong knew the time has come; he quickly released a finger wind, piercing the horse’s buttock standing about ten zhang away, while at the same time he shot out close to the ground.
The wind pierced the horse, which immediately let out a long neigh and reared on its hind legs. When the front legs touched the ground, it pulled the carriage, along with the other horse – forward.
Caught off guard, the two demon Taoists panicked; hastily they tried to control the horses. Their attention was completely on the horses that they did not see Kou Zhong, from the back, shooting into the bottom of the carriage, and positioned himself inside the cavity between the two axles.
These two men were exchanging pointers and sharing their experience in the Taoist cultivation. Just before the incident, their discussion had reached an interesting stage; therefore, after swearing and cursing for a moment, they quickly returned to the topic without the slightest care of what had just happened.
Light footsteps came. Kou Zhong changed his outer breathing to the inner breathing, while suppressing the essence and qi of his entire body, and cried inwardly, ‘A close call!’ Just by listening to the footsteps, he knew that Zhu Yuyan and the others were personally seeing the Old Demon Rong off into the carriage. If he had successfully hid inside the carriage, it would definitely be extremely terrible.
Among the enemies, there were Zhu Yuyan and Wanwan, hence he quickly dispelled the idea of sticking out his head to take a peek, so he just calmed his heart down to listen attentively.
Zhu Yuyan’s cold and detached voice, which was devoid of any emotions, was heard from the side of the carriage, “Dao Xiong, your trip this time is of major importance, you must use both gentle methods and force; you must not let Wang Shichong give you ambiguous answer.”
The door was pulled open. Pi Chen’s gentle-and-reserved, pleasant-to-hear voice said, “Zongzun please be assured, I know this man’s character like the back of my hand, plus my Luo Shui Bang has control over the economic lifeline of Luoyang; he has no choice but to comply with us.”
Zhu Yuyan said, “It is rumored that in recent years somebody is meddling to compete with you for external business; is it true?”
Letting out a cold snort, Pi Chen said, “This person is precisely Zhai Rang’s daughter, Zhai Jiao. Were it not for Dou Jiande behind her giving her support, I would have sent someone to kill her.”
Listening to this, Kou Zhong’s heart was shocked; his murderous intent was flaring even higher.
Yunyu Shuang Xiu Pi Shouxuan spoke indifferently, “Such an insignificant Liang clown, what can they do? Do you want us to handle it on Zongzhu’s behalf? I guarantee it will be a clean job.”
“Absolutely not,” Pi Chen replied, “If people find out about our relationship, my trouble will be greatly increased. I have to handle this matter openly. It is best to deal a business affair with business method, otherwise, my hard-earned reputation might be destroyed overnight, Luo Shui Bang might also disintegrate because of this.”
Zhu Yuyan said, “Dao Xiong knows about this matter better than we do, naturally it should be left to Dao Xiong to deal with.”
And then someone climbed up into the carriage. Unexpectedly, other than Pi Chen, there was also Rong Jiaojiao.
Kou Zhong groaned inwardly. If one strike failed, he would not have a second chance.
But this moment he was like riding a tiger, it would be hard to get off. Without any better option he raised his qi to lighten his body to avoid the demon Taoist and the female demon sensing something was unusual from the weight of the carriage.
Amidst the sound of people saying goodbye, the carriage set off.
A strange and jovial voice, from nobody-knows-where, was chanting, “If a man seeks Buddha, the man will miss Buddha. If a man seeks the Way, the man will miss the Way. It doesn’t matter if you are proficient in the Scripture, it doesn’t matter if you are a prince, a marquis, a general or a minister, it doesn’t matter if you can argue with words like a torrent, it doesn’t matter if you are smart or wise, you only need to be your true self. If you want to sleep then go sleep, if you want to sit then sit; if you are hot then cool down, if you are cold then face the fire.”
In Xu Ziling’s mind, a clear picture of a not-bothering-about-trifles, not-particular-about-ceremony, casual-minded-yet-has-truly-attained-the-Way holy monk started to emerge, which was as different as can be from the conscientious-in-words-and-laugh, precious-appearance-and-stately holy monk that he always pictured in his mind.
Not only the words of this Zen-chanting holy monk contained the wisdom that was easy to understand. The most formidable thing was that he was able to make his voice swiftly moving and hard to fathom. Only this one fact, Xu Ziling knew that he was unable to match; pushing it further, he knew that the way the monk moved would also be hard to fathom and vicious to resist.
Still keeping his eyes closed, Xu Ziling spoke indifferently, “Is it Chanzong Sizu Daoxin Dashi?”
The man laughed aloud and said, “Kid is indeed destined to meet Buddha, one guess and you hit it. How about answering another question from Laoseng [old monk]? Heaven above, the earth below, ahead and behind are Buddhist Hall, left and right are the walls, where is the hidden treasure?”
This was the first time that Xu Ziling encountered a Zen question; smiling slightly, he said, “Is it like Sizu just said, hidden treasure can only be obtained within oneself?”
Daoxin Dashi laughed so hard that he choked; he said, “Ay! Good kid. I thought you were going to reply that the hidden treasure is in Chang’an. All right! Life is a hundred years, how much will appearance pass? Pleasure and suffering are short, anxiety is indeed a lot! What about snow wine, the days going toward smoke dream, flowers overflow the reeds edge, sparse rain phased over. When the wine is gone, the staff travels many roads, which one is not ancient, Nanshan [southern mountain] is a lofty mountain.”
Xu Ziling’s heart was overwhelmed with emotion; using poetry and literature Daoxin described the realm in which he pursued broad-mindedness without any restriction, screaming to engage in mountain forest way of life. Although he knew perfectly well than Daoxin wanted to psychologically weaken his fighting spirit, he could not help being affected by it. Inwardly he pondered whether sacrificing his life for Kou Zhong would be too much?
A Buddhist chant, followed by the humming noise of a bell. The voices chanting the sutras appeared to be coming from the out-of-reach distant end of the earth; if he did not pay attention, it sounded indistinct, yet if he concentrated his mind to listen, every single word was so clear, nothing was left behind; clearly it was some kind of marvelous Buddhist skill.
From inside the carriage, Rong Jiaojiao’s voice came down, “Die, daughter is not going to come with you to the Imperial Palace, lest tonight I will be entangled by Crown Prince Xuanying. Ay! I never imagined that there would be such an annoying man in the world.”
Rong Fengxiang’s gloomy-voice-thin-breathing said, “There are all kinds of men in the world. If Li Yuan did not have a son like Li Shimin, how could situation like today arise? Pity that Wang Shichong lacks his good fortune.”
Even until now, Kou Zhong, under the carriage, was still unclear on Rong Jiaojiao and Pi Chen’s ‘father-daughter’ relationship; even more, he did not know her relationship with Zhu Yuyan and Yang Xuyan. According to reason, if Rong Jiaojiao was Zhu Yuyan’s disciple, how could she hang around Shi Zhixuan’s disciple? Unless Yang Xuyan did not know Rong Jiaojiao’s true identity.
Rong Jiaojiao sighed and said, “After the Overbearing Saber Yue Shan left Bashu, nobody knows his tracks; it really gives us headache.”
Hearing that, Kou Zhong’s spirit was greatly aroused; hurriedly he pricked up his ears to eavesdrop.
Rong Fengxiang’s voice turned cold; he said, “I never thought that not only he did not die, he even mastered the Great Method of Changing the Sun. The longer we do not get rid of this man, the longer he will be the great disaster waiting to happen to us.”
Rong Jiaojiao said, “The scariest thing now is if he went to Chang’an to see his old friend Li Yuan. Because he has deep knowledge of our demonic school’s secret, if he exposed Xiao Ni’s relationship with us, the consequences is truly difficult to guess.”
Listening to this, Kou Zhong was stunned. He really could not imagine that Yue Shan and Li Yuan, who seemed to be completely unrelated to one another, were unexpectedly good friends.
Letting out a cold snort, Rong Fengxiang said, “Zhu Yuyan did not kill him that day, I’ll say that she regretted it so much.”
Rong Jiaojiao said, “It’s not that Zhu Yuyan really did not want to kill him, it’s just that the ship was not a good place to fight; moreover, she did not want anybody to know her relationship with Bai Qing’er.”
Just by hearing how she called Zhu Yuyan’s name directly, he knew that her ‘master-disciple’ relationship with Zhu Yuyan was not a simple one.
Rong Fengxiang said, “My guess is that he is going to Lingnan to look for Song Que for a decisive battle, to wipe the former disgrace away. It would be most ideal if Song Que could separate his head from his body in one chop. Once the main problem is solved, all troubles are solved.”
The carriage suddenly stopped. Kou Zhong lowered his head to look sideways. The place where the carriage stopped was unexpectedly not the main gate of Rong Mansion, but the gate to another building’s courtyard. There was no light on the street; the air was silent without any noise.
Rong Jiaojiao said, “I’m off!” And then there was the sound of door being opened.
Inwardly Kou Zhong was greatly delighted. Slowly he drew the Moon in the Well. By the time Rong Jiaojiao disappeared behind the wall, he slipped out from the bottom of the carriage.
The two martial art masters from Laojun Guan driving the carriage did not know that an assassin was already at the other side of the carriage.
The whip rose up and fell.
The first thing he saw was naturally the sitting-comfortably-on-top-of-the-roof-ridge-of-the-building-behind-the-temple-hall, holding-up-a-pot-and-drinking-his-fill Chanzong Sizu Daoxin Dashi.
At a glance, he seemed to be over a hundred years old man, simply because his pair of white eyebrows was so long that they hung down toward his ears, his snow white long beard was hanging down over his bulging belly. But as Xu Ziling looked closely, his eyes were shooting out spirited light, the skin on his face was as young and smooth as a baby’s skin, with reddish tint within the white color of his glowing-with-youthfulness face. His shiny baldhead reflected the bright moon. Although he was fat, he was in no way obese. He appeared to be relaxed and contented, carefree and lived peacefully, exuding a good-natured-and-kind impression to others.
Seeing Xu Ziling looking up at him, Daoxin Dashi raised his pot and chanted, “Bluish green mountain, the people come; clear wine fills the cup to the brim, liveliness reaches far out, no need to be discouraged of death, marvelous crop comes naturally, who would take part in making the decision?”
The idea behind these six sentences was someone coming for a visit, wine was used to show hospitality, brimming with exuberant vitality, without the slightest contamination of the heartless loneliness like the desperation of death. The most marvelous thing was the natural realm, which basically did not need anybody else’s decision to make it happen.
Daoxin Dashi was worthy to be one of the Four Great Holy Monks, each word was like one bead of a string of pearls, all hit squarely on the main points in Xu Ziling’s heart.
Xu Ziling smiled and nodded his head to show courtesy, but he did not say anything.
Zhihui Dashi was standing on the stone steps of the main entrance of the rear hall. A dark brown kasaya was draped across his shoulder, outside his grey monk robe. His build was tall, thin and straight, his forehead was high and broad, above his pool-like eye sockets, his eyebrows were black, his face was slender, his pair of eyes were sparkling with the brilliant rays of wisdom. His overall look was that of a holy monk who had achieved the Way, with the benevolent look of bemoaning the state of the universe and pitying the fate of mankind.
He put his palms together and called on one of the many names of Buddha in low voice.
Slowly rising up, Xu Ziling spoke in a calm and composed manner, “There are still Huayan School’s Dixin Zunzhe and Sanlun School’s Jiaxiang Dashi. May I ask where those two Buddhist honorable selves are?”
Daoxin Dashi raised his thumb and said, “Ziling’s spirit is indeed laudable. Those two old baldheads are not in Luoyang yet; as long as you could get by us, Ziling could peacefully go back and get a good night sleep.”
Zhihui Dashi’s eyes looked down on his heart; he said, “Sin! Sin! This time because it is not an ordinary Jianghu strife at all, please forgive Laona’s [old cassock] offense in joining hands with Daoxin Dashi to get Shizhu to stay here.”
Although his mouth said ‘offense’, his state of mind did not fluctuate the least bit. Evidently, when they were making their move, these two grand-master level of Buddhist figures would make an all-out effort to attain the ideal situation without the slightest degree of concern over human emotions.
Daoxin Dashi laughed aloud and said, “Laoseng also wants to ask Ziling’s forgiveness first. To be fair, as long as Ziling can leave this virtuous temple, we, the two baldheads, will no longer interfere with Ziling’s conducts.”
Zhihui Dashi’s eyes looked down, he chanted aloud, “Everything has a method of being, like an illusion, like the dew, but also like lightning; it ought to do just like it observes.”
Divine light flashed in Xu Ziling’s mind; so abruptly like a thousand li of dense fog suddenly dissipated, blown by a gust of storm, the sky was clear for ten thousand li.
Upon leaving the bell tower, he has been pondering the issue that lies between the dreamland and the reality. It was the marvelous thought that was brought about by Shi Zhixuan’s ‘Immortal Image Method’, which could raise the realm of reality and fantasy, the empty and the solid, into the extreme realm of illusion blended into the reality.
At that time he only vaguely felt that it was a workable approach, but he still had not found the path to put it into practice. But when Zhihui Dashi’s four lines of Zen revelation entered his ears, it was like the evening drum, morning bell [idiom: the passage of time in a disciplined existence], which made him obtain awareness and enlightenment.
The solution lies in the difference between action and inaction.
Xu Ziling calmly smiled; he left the small pavilion and walked back toward the Hall of Great Strength [i.e. the main hall of a Buddhist temple contain the main image of veneration].
A strange, astonished feeling welled up in the two Buddhist holy monks’ heart.
It should be noted that after they were showing up themselves, they were using scripture recitation and Dhyana chants, combined with mind power to control Xu Ziling’s spirit from a distance; who would have thought that apart from a short period of time at the beginning, where Xu Ziling appeared to be affected by the situation, by the time Xu Ziling opened his pair of eyes, he immediately recovered his sobriety and calmness?
To this moment, when he had a smile on his face and left, every movement had some kind of resembling-the-nature-itself, confident-and-at-ease, graceful feeling, so that others could not bear to destroy this perfect feeling.
In that instant, both Daoxin Dashi and Zhihui Dashi realized that they had fallen into the disadvantageous position.
Using an extremely brilliant xinfa, Xu Ziling had grasped their weaknesses. It should be noted that they had been cultivating their power in seclusion for many years; under ordinary circumstances, practically there was no way they could be aroused to attack other people or even having the heart to resort to martial force.
This time, for the sake of common people, it could be said that they reluctantly bore this heavy responsibility. And now Xu Ziling’s every single move, every step that he took, none did not contain some kind of abstruse legal principle, just like the touching scenery of the natural world, like watching a clear spring flowing over the rock, or the green hills did not obstruct the white cloud circling in the air; nothing to stop them from moving, nothing to stop them from staying, they were coming and going at will.
They were simply incapable of having the intention to raise the weapons of war.
Naturally they would not sit idly watching Xu Ziling floating away just like that, only they were forced to make their move, but while doing that, they would also violate Buddhist decree, so that there was a bad feeling of being bound by an invisible rope, which greatly affected their Zen heart.
In the blink of an eye, Xu Ziling disappeared behind the back door of the Hall of Great Strength.
Daoxin Dashi came to Zhihui Dashi’s side, and looked at the latter with a bitter smile on his face.
Even with their submission power and spiritual cultivation, they still felt that in terms of intelligence and martial art skill, Xu Ziling was unfathomably deep.
The Moon in the well swiftly stabbed forward, it broke into the carriage, and penetrated the back of the seat like piercing a piece of thin paper, to take the old demon Pi Chen’s, who personified Rong Fengxiang – back.
The amassing-to-its-highest-level power of murderous spirit, like volcano dissolving the rocks, was released with an irresistible momentum.
This one saber strike was absolutely not by fluke. After going through the ‘Heavenly Saber’ Song Que’s personal instruction and going through fire and water these past few days, plus the studying intensively and painstaking cultivation, it absolutely must attain this result.
The most formidable aspect was, just like Xu Ziling’s Treasure Vase Image, before the power was released, the enemy absolutely would not sense it.
It should be noted that Pi Chen ranked among the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Way, naturally his demonic power was excellent, reaching the becoming-an-arhat level. Yet Kou Zhong was unexpectedly able to send this saber stab, which as soon as it went out it would be guaranteed to astonish and shake the world, without he perceiving or estimating it.
Kou Zhong’s accurate timing was even more precise, without any gap left not being attacked. He was originally crouching near the front of the carriage. By the time he straightened his back, the carriage had just started to move. The time he needed to stand up completely and stab the saber precisely brought him to the position where he was slightly behind the carriage window; therefore, the saber was entering the carriage at an angle. It should have hit the vital acupoint on Pi Chen’s back, so that no matter how formidable the divine power protecting his body was, he shouldn’t be able to block Kou Zhong’s full-strength, full-spirit, no-stronghold-cannot-be-broken saber strike.
It was only this moment that the old demon Pi Chen sensed the attack; he also demonstrated his shrewd and ruthless, as well as fast and nimble reaction. Although the incident happened so suddenly without the least bit of warning sign, he was still able to move sideways first, and then threw himself forward, with the hope of avoiding the fatal disaster.
A mournful scream, which completely shattered the tranquility of the deep night, shook the long street.
Kou Zhong pulled the saber and swiftly withdrew. Taking advantage while the carriage was still blocking the two Laojun Guan martial art masters driving the carriage’s line of sight, he quickly hid back into the bottom of the carriage. This was a psychological gambling on his part. When an assassin’s hit did not succeed, usually he would quickly run far away, but on the contrary, Kou Zhong stayed nearby.
Pi Chen, who was hit by the saber, with blood spurting out of the wound on his back, crashed through the roof of the carriage and fell to the side of the street. He staggered a moment before rolling down on the ground.
The two drivers hastily pounced down to help; naturally they did not have the time to leisurely chase the seemingly disappearing-without-a-trace perpetrator.
Kou Zhong cried, ‘What a pity!’ inwardly, but he was greatly satisfied. Although this saber strike failed to pierce through the old demon Pi Chen’s heart, but the qi power has shaken his five viscera and six bowels that he suffered a very heavy injury; without spending a year or a half, he could forget about being able to recover completely.
Gusts of wind rapidly came. Rong Jiaojiao sternly said, “Who did this?”
Suddenly a gentle and reserved, sweet-sounding voice, which at a moment like this still did not grow warm or get blazing hot, as if he was not emotionally moved by Pi Chen being attacked and suffering heavy injury, came from the other side of the carriage, “This is saber wound; it must be Kou Zhong who did this. That kid can evade Zongzhu’s eyes and ears and hide to this place before sending out his saber strike, he is indeed exceptional.”
This unfamiliar voice, which he heard for the first time, had scared Kou Zhong off; because it was not until this man spoke that Kou Zhong realized of his arrival by the carriage’s side. From this, it could be imagined to what level the brilliance of his martial art skill was.
Gnashing her teeth in anger, Rong Jiaojiao said, “Mr. Zhao must retrieve justice for Jiaojiao.”
Kou Zhong was shocked inwardly. He finally guessed that this man must be the ‘Mo Shuai’ [demonic commander] Zhao Deyan, who ranked barely second after the ‘Yin Hou’ [Empress Yin] Zhu Yuyan, ‘Xie Wang’ [Demonic King] Shi Zhixuan, and ‘Xie Di’ [demonic emperor] Xiang Yutian.
He had finally come.
‘Mo Shuai’ Zhao Deyan spoke indifferently, “Jiaojiao, don’t worry. As long as you hand over Zongzhu to me, I guarantee that he has nothing worry about his life. Kou Zhong indeed has a fully justified reputation; this sudden strike has put our troop disposition in confusion. Jiaojiao immediately go back to notify Yin Hou, tell her that Zongzhu is returning to Laojun Guan to recover from his injury. That should be enough.”
Kou Zhong pondered inwardly that if he did not leave now, what was he waiting for?