The place which Wuxin described as being extremely far away ended up just being a small hill not too far away from the city. There stood a dilapidated temple atop a mountain, with words written on it that had long since become indistinct. Within was a statue of the Buddha that was missing a few limbs; it seemed like no one had entered the temple in a long time. Sitting on the roof by himself, Wuxin’s white robes fluttered in the air as he gazed blankly in the direction of Khotan.
“What are you looking at?” Lei Wujie leaped onto the roof and asked.
“Look at this Kingdom of Khotan.” Wuxin looked at the city not too far away.
“What about it?” Lei Wujie was confused.
“Are they impoverished?” Wuxin asked.
Lei Wujie thought about it then nodded his head. Indeed it was. Not too long ago, they were in the flourishing city of Sangu, then there was even less to say about Biluo City which was a city of free trade at the border. Yet after arriving in the Kingdom of Khotan, all they saw were destitute locals and ascetic monks.
“Yet the old monk always yearned for this place.” Wuxin softly said.
Lei Wujie was momentarily at a loss and he didn’t understand the meaning behind Wuxin’s words. In the end, he could only mutter, “Oh…”
“The old monk was born in the Kingdom of Khotan. At the tender age of six, he had already mastered the Buddhist texts. Back then, he asked this difficult problem of the then Esteemed Master of the Grand Sanskrit Temple, Xu Wang: The country I live in is poverty-stricken and there isn’t a single smile to be found on the faces of the people. When one speaks of cultivation, why must the road be filled with suffering? Were we truly born into this world just to suffer this hardship?”
“Then how did Esteemed Master Xu Wang reply him?”
“Esteemed Master Xu Wang said, when the flower blooms, it’s dazzling, yet its withering is not too far away. The seasons come and the seasons go as man live through a hundred different lives. Within such vastness, will there not be suffering? How can there be a world without suffering? Life is ever changing and unpredictable… only because there is suffering, that there is joy. The two exist together.”
“Well, I don’t understand anything you just said.” Lei Wujie answered truthfully.
“The old monk didn’t understand what the Esteemed Master Xu Wang said as well. As such, he left the Kingdom of Khotan when he was six and he traveled the world, seeking the truth. He wandered the world till he was forty before he started preaching in the Snowy Peak Temple. However, there was a question which he could never resolve in his heart. If killing a single person could save millions of others, yet the person you have to kill is an innocent man… should you kill that person?”
“That’s…” Lei Wujie hesitated and didn’t know how to answer.
“If it’s me, I would kill that person.” Xiao Se who was sitting on the steps below faintly said.
“When I was young, I dreamt that there was always someone standing in front of me. After opening my eyes in panic, I realized that it was the old monk who was standing in front of me, wielding a knife in hand. He wanted to kill me, but he couldn’t bear to do so. In the end, he walked away. Following that, he established the Rakshasa Hall with the intention of leading me onto the path of Buddhism through the demonic path. Yet in his heart, he didn’t know if it was right or wrong…and with that tiny crack in his heart, he fell into depravity,” Wuxin sighed.
“I think, I know who you are.” Xiao Se suddenly spoke up.
“As always, brother Xiao’s knowledge spans far and wide . I’m very interested in brother Xiao as well, yet I still can’t even begin to guess at your origins.” Wuxin laughed.
“Your surname is Ye.” Xiao Se affirmed.
“That’s right, your guess is correct. Before I entered the Snowy Peak Temple, my surname was indeed Ye. My name is Ye Anshi, the son of Ye Dingzhi.”
“Ye Dingzhi? The Sect Master of the Unorthodox Sect?!” Lei Wujie exclaimed in surprise.
“For the Outheaven, Snow Moon City, the Buddhist Sects of the world, and even the court to take such notice of a single person…no matter how I look at it, that person has to have some relation with Ye Dingzhi.”
“So what is Outheaven?” Lei Wujie asked in curiosity.
“Everyone knows that twelve years ago, the Unorthodox Sects set off on an eastward invasion that left the lands bereft of life. Yet how many actually knew what the sect is? The unorthodox sect is actually just an alliance of over thirty sects from outside the region The most important sect in the alliance was the Outheaven. Their previous Sect Master, Ye Dingzhi, was the chief of the Outheaven Faction.”
“After their expedition failed, they made an agreement with the martial artists of the Central Plains that they wouldn’t take a single step into the region in the next twelve years. It has been said that in the agreement, a hostage was provided as well. The hostage was raised by a mysterious person with that same duration of twelve years. All in likelihood, that hostage was you. ” Xiao Se said.
“That’s right. I was five years old when I followed my father on the expedition to the east. After the expedition failed, I was taken in by Wangyou. Today, that twelve years deadline is up and I should have been returned to the Outheaven faction. However, no one knows for sure if the Unorthodox Sect would invade again after my return. As such, there were people who wanted to cripple me. And there were also people who wanted to imprison me… then there were those who just wanted me dead.” Wuxin said.
“What about you? What are your plans?”
“I wish to return to the Snowy Peak Temple, and listen to the old monk chant his Buddhist scriptures.” Wuxin laughed.
Xiao Se was stunned for a second before standing up. Bundling his hands in his sleeves, he took several steps forward, looked at the Kingdom of Khotan in the distance and muttered, “Less than a hundred springs have passed since your birth, yet your worries mirror that of a thousand.”
“After the twelve years deadline is up, everyone will take action. Yet, the old monk knew he couldn’t stop all of them, so he worried, and worried, till he finally went mad.” Wuxin replied.
“That person who appeared in the day, he should be Wang Rensun of the Space-severing Blade, I presume?” Xiao Se asked.
“That’s right. Wang Rensun was a close friend of my father back in the day. He was a disciple of the Heavenly Mountain Sect. He tried to persuade my father not to set out east but failed. In the end, he wanted to wash his hands off everything and leave but he was forced by his sect to take part in the battle against the Unorthodox. After that battle, he left the Heavenly Mountain sect, claiming that whatever he owed the sect was paid, along with any feelings he had for it. It was then that Master Xu Wang of the Grand Sanskrit Temple became his teacher. If he hadn’t left the sect, he should be the sect master of the Heavenly Mountain Sect by now.” Wuxin said.
“Another who values loyalty and friendship…” Lei Wujie nodded his head to express his admiration.
“Tomorrow, you will die.” Xiao Se suddenly proclaimed. “What you should be doing now is get a fast steed and travel east without ever stopping.”
“If I really wanted to run away, I could have done so in the Enchantress Villa.” Wuxin chuckled. “I have always said that I had something left unaccomplished… that was because the old monk always mentioned how he missed this place. Now that even his corpse is no more, I have to at least bring his soul back here.”
“Tomorrow, the ritual conducted by three hundred monks will definitely alarm the Kingdom of Khotan. The Nine Dragon Temple is located nearby… are you confident that you can escape from all those monks?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” Wuxin stood up and his white robes fluttered in the wind.
“However, there is a matter which I never have understood,” Xiao Se said.
“Oh? You know of the Outheaven faction, you know of Wang Rensun, you even know that Eunuch Jin Xian is Chen Jingzhou of the Frostwind Sword. I honestly thought that there was nothing you didn’t know.”
“The part I never understood was why did you have to bring the two of us along? We should have been completely unrelated to this matter.” Xiao Se said.
“That’s right! If you really needed helpers, couldn’t you have looked for those two experts from the Outheaven?” Lei Wujie spoke up as well.
“Didn’t I say it before? I lack money. Just look at you two, one wears a fur coat worth a fortune, the other, Phoenix Fire threads. Even the blind could see that you two are rich.” Wuxin answered, truthful as he could possibly be.
“My dear monk, I swear you have a thousand lies hiding underneath that tongue of yours, all waiting to pop out at a moment’s notice.” Xiao Se was somewhat helpless.
“You two are pretty similar when it comes to this point.” Lei Wujie mumbled to himself.
Wuxin took a few steps forward till he was all the way to the edge of the roof. His sleeves suddenly trembled. Bathing in the gloomy moonlight, he tilted his head towards the sky and laughed. As if responding to his laughter, his sleeves fluttered like they were dancing to his voice.
“I wish to ride the winds northwards, where the snow falls like a blanket over the earth.
I wish to ride a boat eastwards, where the fairies stand bewitchingly amongst the wind.
I wish to travel a million miles stepping on the clouds, what can the temples and dragons say to that?
The crests of Kunlun bathe in light, even amongst green mountains does an end exist.
Over ten thousand miles does a swallow fly home, yet return I will not till I see the world’s end!”
Wuxin folded his fluttering sleeves inwards and hung his head down only to find Xiao Se looking back at him as well. In that single moment, they saw a reflection of themselves in each other’s eyes!”
“I won’t die. I still have many places to go…”