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Shangguan Heng jerked his head in defiance, struggling to get rid of that surge of admiration for his companion’s enshrouded greatness. Coldly, he shot back, “Not even the grandmasters of the Dharmakaya who are capable of flight questioned such absurdity. What possessed you to make such baseless postulations? The Primogenitors of Buddhist and Taoist teachings will answer in the debate of the Origins. There is hardly a need for you to burden yourself with such things beyond your comprehension.”
“Indeed,” replied Meng Qi softly with a deep sigh. The night grew darker still as the hour edged closer to dawn. The countless twinkling stars in the borderless expanse of the heavens filled his view.
“Of course, there have been a multitude of Dharmakaya prodigies and even great legends of old that have walked this very Earth. How could they not know if the Heaven and Earth are flat or round? How could they not tell the difference of the gleaming stars and the burning sun?”
Meng Qi reached forward and plucked another blade of grass. He set the grass between his teeth and leaned back against the large green rock. Dreamily, he wondered aloud, “Long ago, during the Fall of the Celestial Court and the scourge of the demons and devils, and then recently, at the Cataclysm of the Demonic Buddha, there has been little martial knowledge imparted from the ancient antiquities. More so of the scarce historical books and records entrusted to us through the decay of Time. How do we know what lies between their pages?”
“Still,the Dharmakaya marvels of this age possessed the ability of flight. But what of the Samsara, were they too capable of traversing the Samsara Realms?”
“The world may be of a spherical Heaven and a flat Earth, but what of the many Samsara realms and dimensions? Where did the mysterious worlds of the Samsara dwell between the planes of Heavens and Earth? Were they merely figments of imagination of the Dominator of the Six Samsara Realms, or were their origins and births related to the essence of the cosmos, the arcane mystics of the Earth and Heavens?”
“There have yet to be any chronicled records of the Samsara realms or any other dimensions and worlds, not to mention the lack of information on whether Dharmakaya masters are capable of passing through the Samsara realms.”
“As such, how does one quantify the Lanke Temple, which has long borne the truism of ‘So Close, Yet So Far’? What can be said of the other Pure Lands of Buddhism? How and where did they dwell between the Heavens and the Earth?”
“What of the Earth before the present Earth? What of the Cosmos before the present Cosmos? What relationships linger between them and the present dimension?”
If Meng Qi had not endured the experiences of his struggles in the Samsara realms nor experienced the enrichment of the knowledge from his past reincarnations,he would have dismissed all his present doubts and debates of a Dharmakaya’s ability to soar through the winds long ago. He would have succumbed to the banalities and trifles of the present age just like the common folk.
Meng Qi’s question had stumped Shangguan Heng despite being endowed with great acumen. He regained himself before replying, “History has frequently suffered blank intervals, and still the Wang family of River East endured. They have prevailed despite the passing of Time, and through adversity and woe. Surely they do not lack records of their deeds.”
Meng Qi breathed in the cold night air. He smiled, “I see. You have seen the ancient records of the Wang family of River East?”
Shangguan Heng’s expression darkened. “How could I? Everybody knows that the Wang family of River East guards their ancient lore books closely as if they are their most treasured possessions. They would never allow strangers pore through their scripts and uncover their secrets…”
His voice trailed of at the end and his tone grew soft. It struck him that his words had inadvertently confirmed Meng Qi’s inference.
“I see. Perhaps, in the former epochs, there was once a different understanding of the Heaven and Earth…” murmured Meng Qi, his voice inflected with mystery and intrigue.
Watching Meng Qi lying on the great rock with the green blade of grass in this mouth, a sudden envy crept into Shangguan Heng’s heart. The picture of ease and nonchalance curiosly overwhelmed him, and he staggered backward to collapse under a large tree. Defiantly, he snapped, “Your words are nothing more than delusions. One can barely count the number of reasons the Wang family of River East would want to closely guarded their secrets. There are other families of the aristocracies and important martial sects that have bequeathed their martial knowledge and tradition till today. Their heritage too, has endured since the Ancient age, the Medieval times.”
Despite his deep reflection on the enigma that was Heaven and Earth, Meng Qi had not the faintest notion of where to begin. But Shangguan Heng’s words sparked something in him. Revealing nothing, he turned to his companion with a smile, “True. The heritage of martial knowledge was not lost with the passage of Time. I trust that the great legends of old would have embodied their teachings about the Dharma and Logos, the martial techniques of the Dharmakaya caliber just not the perception of the Heaven and Earth. Given delicate rumination and study, one might learn the knowledge and philosophy needed to substantiate one’s own understanding.”
“Grasping and mastering of the laws of Nature will be displayed in devastating and powerful martial techniques that one learns during one’s ascent to greatness. This is a realm where one must take the mystics of supernatural invincibility upon oneself. Surely the ancient legacies bore the teachings and philosophy of the Heavenly Primogenitor’s creation of the Heaven and the Earth so that the Primogenitor’s teachings that have existed since Creation endure to this day?”
“Heh. The remnants of the past are but fragments of Dharmakaya techniques. The same can be said of techniques of the Enlightened. Hardly sufficient provisions to meditate on, right?” Shangguan Heng sneered smugly.
Meng Qi stretched lazily and spat the grass from his mouth. He continued wearily, “Well, enlightenment is not the only goal, right? Studying different legacies and institutions of the ancient legends may yield an insight to understand the order and nature of Heaven and Earth.”
A thorough comprehension would combine elements pertaining to one’s course of study and learning. His current skill and level of perception would have left him confounded and disoriented by the sheer vastness and the complexity.
“Legacies of different ancient legends or techniques of the Dharmakaya…” Shangguan Heng muttered, wondering if Meng Qi had sunk into another of his many delusions once more.
The smile on Meng Qi’s face did not slip. A moment of silence hovered amongst them both, then Meng Qi rose wearily, patting his robes clean. The powers of the Eight Nine Mysteries conjuration, the Heavenly Golden Scripture spell, the Divine Nine-Annihilation technique, and the inheritance of the Buddha’s Palm technique he had at his fingertips. He was hardly lacking any subject of meditation.
The stars of the dark night were glimmering radiantly as Meng Qi stood, his gaze far away. Shangguan Heng eyed Meng Qi suspiciously. “You are setting off again?”
“Something has come to me. I want to head for the nearest city as fast as I can,” Meng Qi answered. Whisking his sleeves as he glided forward as if borne by the wind, and he was off.
His jaunty manner in which he spoke and took flight once again gave Shangguan Heng another rush of begrudging envy.
Dawn came, pale and clear. Meng Qi emerged from amongst the shadowy overcast of the mountain paths and walked through the gates of the nearest city. Determinedly, he headed straight towards the nearest bookstore.
“Shangguan,” he asked his loathsome companion, “it has occurred to me that I have been in North Zhou Dynasty for quite some time. But why were you the sole contestant to challenge my skills?” Meng Qi’s strides did not falter even as he talked.
Shangguan Heng had kept to his word. He had persistently followed in Meng Qi’s wake, a mere paces behind Meng Qi now. Sourly he answered, “You defeated me with one single stroke. There would not be so many experts left who are confident to challenge you. It will be some time before others appear.”
Shangguan Heng’s prowess would have placed him just behind Cao Er, the Without Embroiling Earth Immortal in the Ranking List of Young Masters. His crushing defeat at Meng Qi’s hands in a single stroke had scared off almost every aspiring contestants, even those who might have been marginally stronger than Shangguan Heng. Meng Qi’s astounding coup de grace had elicited fear amongst the warriors of North Zhou Dynasty.
“I know,” Meng Qi answered, “But what of the masters who covet my skills and Precious Weapons?” He strolled casually through the streets with his hands behind his back, his eyes darting around as he looked for a bookstore.
Shangguan Heng could not help but feel irked that he had become a simple footman for Meng Qi. Exasperated, he said, “You might have been a dishonorably expelled disciple of the Shaolin, but you have maintained close dealings with prominent martial sects and various members of the aristocracy. Despite the many encounters with death, you have endured as the second-best warrior in the Ranking List of Young Masters . One might wonder if there are strong invisible hands behind your ascent to greatness and fame; or perhaps you are a prodigy,blessed with ungodly talents and flair in the martial techniques. Your reputation precedes you so that none dare incur the wrath of the former and dispute the latter.”
“Seasoned elders of the Exterior would customarily have had their own Precious Weapons forged long ago,” Shangguan Heng continued, “Only fresh fighters whose footprints have barely been imprinted past the threshold of the Exterior would harbor such naive inclinations. Yet how many would have thought of this? Options and opportunities abound everywhere despite the peril that lurks.”
Without the motive of incensed hatred or alluring gain, none would relish antagonizing a person who might be capable of amazing feats; one who has been ordained with both powerful invincibility and tremendous fortune.
Meng Qi grinned at his companion’s remark, ending the conversation without a further word. He knew as well, that his unpredictable trail through the wilderness had deterred many budding challengers from seeking him out. The primary reason for his frivolous wanderings was to elude his pursuers from the Myths and the foul folk who harbored greivous intentions towards him.
He left the street and slipped into an alleyway. There, he found a bookstore where he purchased a good many Buddhist and Taoist scriptures and sutras after browsing extensively through the shelves.
“What in the world has possessed you?” asked Shangguan Heng incredulously.
Su Meng, the Killing Blade, was contemplating a change of heart and becoming a Taoist or a monk?
Without so much as a word, Meng Qi paid for the books. Past the doors of the bookstore, he found a corner where he sat and began to leaf through the pages of the books he bought. He would have been mistaken for a beggar if it were not for his clothing and impressive bearing.
The reference of the unbroken heritage from the long past in his debate with Shangguan Heng had inspired him. Knowledge and understanding of the Heaven and Earth was contained not only in the martial knowledge that has ancestral roots of old but also in the Buddhist sutras and Taoist scriptures. By getting rid of frivolous gossip, he would fully comprehend the Buddhist’s and Taoist’s outlook on the matter.
His mind whirred as the pages flew by. There Meng Qi sat, unmoving, for two days completely oblivious to the people and events that happened around him. The sudden transformation befuddled Shangguan Heng. “Has he gone completely mad and delusional?” he asked himself.
“Not to mention the countless throng of mythical aspects of the Buddhist lore; the Sun-Moon Division, the Six Heavens of Desires and the Brahmā worlds form the small Lokadhātu. One thousand small Lokadhātus added with the Ābhāsvara worlds form the small Chiliocosm. One thousand small Chiliocosms added with the Subhkrtsna worlds form the Dichiliocosm. One thousand Dichiliocosms, with the Brhatphala worlds and the Four Formless Spaces, constitute a Trichiliocosm. Three thousand Trichiliocosms create a Buddhist Realm, where Buddha is present. All forms of Buddha are but various different facets of Gautama, the Shakyamuni Buddha…” Meng Qi mumbled incoherently, without tearing his attention off the pages.
“Planets and stars gather to form a star system, and star systems gather to form galaxies, and the multitude of galaxies are collectively referred to as galaxy groups where they are dwarfed by the vast universe. In the early beginning, the universe was but a tiny speck. Indescribable, without an origin and without its end. These descriptions seem familiar…”
The similarities of the former were most recognizable to Meng Qi. It was systemic classification based on the accumulation of collective units. But the description of the Buddha and his present understanding of the primordial origin would require deeper thought.
“Still, discrepancies between the descriptions exist between the Buddhist and the Taoist accounts of events. There was the account of the primordial beginning, the reasonable doubt of the Buddha’s irreverence to the Cause of All Karma, the creation of life, and the Buddhist nature that resides in all life – the sign of the Buddha…”
In the tumult of thoughts that cluttered his mind, a line from his memory surfaced:
“Watch not the boundless shifts in vain; Eternal immortality shall be yours to gain; Trust with no doubt that all are trivial; The wisdom of Buddha to accept the immaterial.”
It was the final line in the Volume of the Enlightenment Stage of the Eight Nine Mysteries discipline. He had failed to comprehend the meaning of the words then. But the words made perfect sense to him now. The lines contained two messages, two separate teachings that would eventually manifest into two different techniques of the discipline, the Immortal Golden Body and the Golden Body of Bodhi.
Under the premise of the two distinctly divergent routes of understanding of one’s self and the nature of Heaven and Earth, there would surely be more definite differences.
“The Hidden Latch indeed!”
Meng Qi has grasped a shred of insight during his training for Divine Nine Annihilation and the Five Thunder Bombardment disciplines. But, the lack of further knowledge had impeded any further deliberation, but also, the very nature of the vast world he lived in.
The discovery of greater wisdom brought joy and comfort to his heart. He abruptly broke out in laughter, dropping the book he held in his hands, oblivious of the judging eyes of the passersby and Shangguan Heng that bore down, seeing not just beggar, but an insane lunatic as well.
“You have finished?” Shangguan Heng asked, the edge of his lips twitching, “What have you discovered?”
For two days he had guarded Meng Qi from afar, perching in a quiet corner where he had meditated and regaled in passersby’s curiosity of Meng Qi’s beggar-like demeanor.
Meng Qi grinned delightedly as he replied, “Considerable insight. But I have another pressing matter to attend to. One that takes precedence over the truth of the Heaven and Earth.”
“And what may it be?” asked Shangguan Heng curiously.
“My stomach. I am famished. I am already salivating hungrily at the prospect of good food,” Meng Qi revealed happily. He rose from his seat and drifted unconcernedly to a restaurant, seeking food.
A clear expression of displeasure and distaste appeared on Shangguan Heng’s face. In a low voice, he muttered,
“I know of a mystic. No, rather a demented maniac, who lives to ponder about the truth of the Heaven and Earth. But most dangerous and precarious is the site of his dwelling. Do you dare to come with me?”
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