Within the kingdom of Khotan, inside the Grand Sanskrit Temple…
While the name of this temple might sound imposing, while it might be the kingdom’s designated temple and while it might be comparable, in terms of size, to the likes of Yunlin and Baima, but in terms of grandeur, it was still lacking.
The current state of the Buddhist faith was such that the temples of the Central Plains enjoyed an unending flow of the faithful. In contrast, those of the Western Region practiced an ascetic lifestyle: meal mustn’t be filling and clothes mustn’t be warming. Only through such abstinence would one achieve great merit.
The Grand Sanskrit Temple was just such a temple, one that lived up to every definition of the word ‘ascetic’. Juxtaposed against the resplendence of the great temples of the Central Plains, it was as if someone threw on a layer of mud on the Grand Sanskrit Temple, and with its state of severe dilapidation, it was on the verge of collapsing any moment.
Yet it was in such a rundown temple that an unusually ornate sedan appeared on its doorstep. One with a golden palanquin that was even etched with a divine bird, feathers so real that it seemed like it was about to take off. All four of its corners were held up by burly men while a couple of lean, tender faced teenagers armed with exquisite swords led the way.
The teenager on the left was a tad younger than his counterpart, and as he gazed around at the bleak faced monks walking past them, he couldn’t help but chuckle, “back at Revelations, I’ve seen my fair share of monks myself. Every one of them would have used golden threads to weave their robes if they could, yet these monks won’t even fill their stomachs.”
“What do you know?” Walking on the right, the older of pair scoffed, “These monks speak of asceticism, should you force those flashy clothes on them, they might even blame you for ruining their cultivation.”
“Ehhh, what’s that they’re chanting over there?” The teenager on the left paid his companion no heed as he continued staring at the monks.
“Probably something along the lines of Amitabha, what else do these monks ever chant?” The right teenager leaned in at this point to listen closely but he soon found that the monks weren’t exactly conforming to his preconceptions.
“It’s Om Mani Padme Hum.” A gentle voice suddenly spoke out from within the palanquin. It was an oddly sharp voice that was difficult to distinguish right away whether it belonged to a male or a female.
“What? What’s that, teacher? Can you repeat that again?” The curiosity of the left teenager was immediately piqued by that foreign chant.
“Although the Buddhist sects of the world all trace their lineage to a common source, there are still different denominations amongst them. Especially in the thirty-two Buddhist kingdoms of the Western Region, there are denominations abound. That chant you just heard was a six syllable mantra, also known as the Sadaksara. There are Buddhist denominations that believe that these six syllables are the condensation of all Buddhist teachings, and invokes the compassion and wisdom of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. With one chant, one accumulates the merit of thousands of scripture recitations.” Explained the figure in a knowing fashion.
“As if, I bet those monks just want to skive off so they invented a short chant like that.” Scoffed the teenager.
“What does a kid such as yourself understand of the profoundness of Buddhism. Bo Yong, you mustn’t blaspheme.” Though his words were barbed, his voice was gentle as if he wasn’t actually rebuking the teenager.
However, the teenager, known as Bo Yong, wasn’t convinced, still, he obeyed his teacher in the end. Instead, it was the teenager on the right that spoke up, “Leave it to teacher to know such matters of the Buddha.”
“It’s not like I wanted to. Why else would the Grand Eunuch dispatch me to this desolate land? Tell me, Ling Jun, what does that recent report say of his whereabouts?” Asked the figure in the palanquin.
“According to the spies, the target just escaped from the Enchantress Villa last night. He even encountered the Western Region’s most fearsome bandit troupe, but that still wasn’t enough to contain him, he should be rushing towards the kingdom of Khotan right now,” answered the teenager on the right.
“As expected…” smiled the figure in the palanquin.
“But…” Ling Jun hesitated for a second.
“But?” The figure was surprised, “go on.”
“He isn’t alone.”
“Oh?” The voice asked with a hint of amusement. “Tang Lian is with him as well? Was he persuaded to do so?”
“Not Tang Lian. Two teenagers, one clad in red, the other clad in a fox coat. For now, we have no clue as to their identities.”
The figure in the palanquin fell into deep thought for a while before saying, “I knew we can’t underestimate that young monk. The moment there was news of him being sent to the Nine Dragons Temple, the Grand Eunuch sent us on our way. But the Grand Eunuch has never dealt with this monk before, he does not know how formidable he is.”
“Formidable the Snow Moon City might be, but without their three leaders acting, there’s no way to contain that monk. That’s why we are here waiting for him. Yet who would’ve thought that he would pick up a pair of accomplices on the way. Red clothes and a fox coat… nobody comes to mind offhand, new disciples of the Snow Moon City perhaps?”
“Speaking of that city, Grand Eunuch had clearly sent word to them already, why do we still have to be dispatched?” Asked Bo Yong.
“At the end of the day, those hailing from the Snow Moon City are still members of the martial world. The way they function tend to be a little hasty; the Grand Eunuch was worried about that…” the voice in the palanquin sighed. “Still, that monk is a tough one to deal with, capricious too.”
“But, teacher, how did you know that he would come to the Grand Sanskrit Temple?” A thought suddenly occurred to Ling Jun then: back when they were about to set off, their teacher mentioned that they would be leaving for the kingdom of Khotan as if he knew of this all along.
“He’s here to find someone,” answered the voice.
“Well, aren’t we about to see him for ourselves?” The voice cleared his throat, “lift off.”
A monk dressed in ragged robes walked out of the temple at that moment, raised one of his arms and straightened it respectfully; he was most likely the attendant monk of this temple.
The attendant monk led their entourage into the temple but said nothing throughout, merely leading them into the center of the courtyard before suddenly stopping.
“What’s the matter, old monk, why aren’t we moving?” Asked Bo Yong.
“Abbot.” The attendant paid him no heed, instead choosing to greet the figure in front.
Bo Yong and Ling Jun raised their heads then to find three monks standing ahead of them. The center monk was wizened, with a long flowing beard of white. While his robes were austere like the rest, at least it wasn’t patched; this was most likely the abbot of the temple. The two flanking him, on the other hand, were a lot more muscular. One fingered a rosary of 108 beads while another wielded a gigantic Buddhist monk’s knife. Both wore a stern countenance full of righteousness.
“How is it?” Asked the voice quietly.
“The monk on the left practices the Demon Subjugation Rosary Divine Skill, roughly of the seventh tier. The one on the right practices the Broken Vows Knife, eighth tier. As for the monk in the center…he doesn’t know any martial arts.” Despite his tender age, Bo Yong was able to identify the martial level of the three monks in an instant.