Book 54 Chapter 5 – The Holy One of the Dhyana School
Translator: Foxs' Wuxia
Bing Yuanzhen and Ba Yegang were sending Kou Zhong and Wuming off to the southern exit at the end of the Tian Cheng Gorge. Ba Yegang sighed and said, “Shaoshuai and Wang Shichong are two completely different persons; on the battlefield, you are always fighting at the head of the troops, charging and breaking through the enemy lines.”
Bing Yuanzhen said, “Shaoshuai is different from anyone else; even Mi Gong at the height of his power, the period where he had respect for the wise – still cannot be compared to Shaoshuai’s complete lack of arrogance, who gives his bare heart into our keeping [idiom: complete trust].”
Kou Zhong reached out with both hands to grab the two men’s shoulder on his left and right, he laughed and said, “One day becoming brothers, we are brothers for life, enjoying blessings and enduring misfortune together. We are throwing our lives in for each other; this is the real meaning of treating-one-another-with-absolute-sincerity brotherhood.”
Bing Yuanzhen and Ba Yegang both revealed a touched expression. Kou Zhong was not someone who speak empty words; he would undertake the most dangerous mission by himself, so that the men under him could reap where they had not sown.
Ba Yegang was emotional as he said, “That day outside the Yi Luo northwest mountain area I was intercepted by the Tang Army, disregarding life and death Shaoshuai came back to block the pursuing troops for Yegang. At that time, Yegang made up my mind that even if I have to offer my life in sacrifice, I vowed to follow Shaoshuai to the end. To be able to come across Shaoshuai, this kind of Bright Ruler with great kindness, great righteousness, it is Yegang’s good fortune.”
Bing Yuanzhen deeply felt the same way, he said, “The final victory will be ours.”
By this time, the three arrived in front of the wooden log gate of the fence at the south exit of the gorge, about a dozen Shao Shuai Army soldiers guarding the gate heard Bing Yuanzhen’s remark, they all shouted in unison, “The final victory will be ours.”
Kou Zhong threw his head back in long laughter; letting go of his hands on the two men’s shoulders, he said, “The more difficult and the more challenging it is, the more it will show our Shao Shuai Army’s mighty power, the sweeter the victory will be, the more we can display the true splendor of life. I hope we all are willing to work together.”
The crowd of officers and soldiers responded in thunderous roar, their voices moved the gorge path.
Kou Zhong also inquired solicitously about his men’s, who guarded the exit – well-being, every word he spoke was heartfelt, so that they were moved. Asking about the situation outside the exit, the captain replied respectfully, “Following Mou Gong’s order, Shuxia sent out scouts to keep watch on high places outside, we did not see any movement.”
Kou Zhong said, “The situation has changed, Mou Gong is going to reinforce the defensive structure on this side, you can immediately call the brothers outside back; as long as we guard the exit well, it should be all right.”
The captain issued an order, his men received the order and blew the bugle horn to summon the scouts to return to the gorge.
Kou Zhong released Wuming; she surveyed the situation far and near from the high altitude. Kou Zhong nodded and said, “Qu Tutong did not send anybody to scout their route first, it must be because he does not want to beat the grass to scare the snake, to arouse our attention. But I am sure that he has his men in distant places where we cannot see to monitor us closely. As soon as there is any sign that we are sneaking away from this side, we will be ambushed by their surprise attack.”
Bing Yuanzhen and Ba Yegang nodded their head in agreement. Qu Tutong was a famous general of the Sui Dynasty, since he surrendered to the House of Tang, his military success was shining even more, time and again he rendered great service. This time he bore heavy responsibility, naturally he would not dare to be careless.
Staring fixedly at Wuming, already turning into a black dot in the night sky, Kou Zhong said, “About fifty li to the west, there are enemies, their number is not a few; they must be Qu Tutong’s vanguard troops. Looking at the route they are taking, they could arrive here tomorrow afternoon. You guys must not underestimate the enemy.”
Bing Yuanzhen spoke with serious expression, “Shaoshuai may rest assured.”
Kou Zhong looked around at the situation of the gorge path, at the exit, the path on this section of the mountain was only about three zhang at the widest part, and was less than two zhang at the narrowest part. He spoke heavily, “Although the gorge path is not conducive to attack, but to go out and attack the enemy outside is equally difficult. Time does not allow us to set up enough rampart and stronghold defensive structure; we can only settle for the second best by spending some effort inside the gorge path.”
Bing Yuanzhen said, “We have a large quantity of wood, we could set up barrier here. The problem is that we won’t be able to correspond with Shaoshuai to attack the enemy from the front and the rear.”
“That method is not feasible,” Ba Yegang said, “The enemy can easily approach the exit from two near sides, if they throw some fire, the burning wood will put us in a very difficult situation; if the south wind is blowing, the whole gorge will be flooded with thick smoke. Fortunately, currently the blowing wind is either northwesterly or northeasterly, otherwise, the thick smoke is enough to drive us off the gorge path.”
Shaken, Kou Zhong said, “Lucky that Yegang reminded us of that possibility. The enemy’s fire attack is certainly very sinister and a hard-to-deal-with killer move. I have been wondering why after reaching Xiangyang, Qu Tutong had to wait a couple of days before setting out; at first I thought that was the time required to mobilize the troops, but when I think clearly, it just does not make any sense. Because in order for the Xiangyang city defenders to guard against us breaking out the siege to the south, they should already make adequate preparation while waiting for dawn, with their head resting on a spear; they should be able to march their troops to battle any moment. Now I begin to think that Qu Tutong is rushing to manufacture blowers to create artificial southerly wind, to drive the thick smoke into the gorge. This is the best marvelous move to break the gorge path defense.”
Bing Yuanzhen and Ba Yegang’s countenance changed at the same time.
Recovering his cool-headedness, Kou Zhong laughed calmly and said, “Since we can think of the enemy’s strategy, we can also think of a strategy to break the enemy. We can ask Mou Gong to build a number of heavily sealed up big dirt and rock vertical sliding gates at the exit, and we make it as high as possible. Then we set up archers, stone throwers and blowers on the top of the wall, the first two are to deal with the enemy, and the last one is to deal with the thick smoke. So what if we have to give up a section of the road outside the exit?”
Bing Yuanzhen cheerfully said, “I am afraid there is no difficult problem in the world that Shaoshuai cannot solve. In that case, we build the first smoke and fire wall six hundred paces away from the mouth of the gorge, then when the enemy enters the gorge path, they will be entirely exposed inside our shooting range.”
Ba Yegang’s confidence fully restored, he said with a laugh, “If necessary, we can also fight fire with fire, to choke them to death.”
Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, “The most important thing is to be flexible in meeting a contingency. We also need to have a pool here like the one in the mountain stronghold. If necessary, we can use soaked cloth to cover our mouth and nose, to prevent against the thick smoke choking us; the enemy won’t have this convenience. Ha!”
This moment the vertical sliding gate opened, one after another the scouts came back to the gorge.
Kou Zhong said, “I will leave this place to gentlemen, Xiaodi is leaving.”
With a long laughter, he went out the sliding gate and flew into the deep dark wilderness.
Xu Ziling woke up from the deepest meditation. In fact, he was in an unusually marvelous condition, his heart and spirit were like heaven and earth roaming together, blending into one. Although the yongquan [gushing spring] acupoint at the soles of his feet still could not absorb the essence of heaven and earth, but the arch of the heart of his left foot was starting to get slightly hot, while the arch of his right foot was getting slightly cold. This has never happened after his injury, but instead of being alarmed, he was happy, because it could be considered that he was getting better.
It was as if he was retreating into the infinite depths of the ocean of his spirit; Hou Xibai’s voice calling him was bringing him back, once again he sensed his seriously injured body and he was returning to the world of the living. He opened his eyes and found the sailboat was sailing into a hidden place in a dense forest by the shore of a small tributary, while the River Huai was flowing slowly behind him, “What is it?” he asked in surprise.
Hou Xibai spoke in low voice, “Upstream ahead, there is a fleet of five ships, flying the banner of the Haisha Bang. They are busy unloading batch after batch of goods to both shores, and another group of Gang people seem to be receiving the goods. I don’t want a new branch grows out of a knot, I am thinking of waiting for them to leave before we continue our journey.”
Xu Ziling said, “Let’s go ashore and sneak over to take a look.”
Knitting his brows, Hou Xibai said, “In this kind of situation, it is better to avoid unnecessary trouble. Ay! I’m saying things like this, would Ziling feel that I am too wordy?”
Xu Ziling smiled and said, “You are giving thought to me! But I have some ominous premonition; I am afraid that this may be an operation against Du Fuwei. Haisha Bang’s current Bangzhu You Qiuyan has close relationship with the demonic school, Fu Gongyou is a man with demonic school background, since we came across them by coincidence, naturally we have to see what exactly is going on. Perhaps the goods being transported is another batch of vicious firearms with tremendous destructive power.”
Hou Xibai quickly and smoothly accepted other people’s correct opinions [idiom], he cheerfully said, “Since we have such a good reason, we’ll have to see what exactly is going on.”
When Kou Zhong heard the sound, his scalp went numb, he stopped in the wilderness, not daring to believe his ears; to other people, the sound of a bell was like evening drum, morning bell, abundant with auspicious and peaceful air. However, to him it was like the charm destroying the [immortal] soul and breaking the [mortal] soul.
It was not the first time that he heard precisely the same bell. At the head of the Tianjin Bridge in Luoyang, he had heard it once. But this moment, twenty li from Tian Cheng Gorge, the sound pierced through his eardrums again. Maybe it represented his complete defeat, his brilliant scheme would come out empty.
Sure enough, Liao Kong’s voice rang behind him, saying, “Liao Kong pays his respect to Shaoshuai.”
Kou Zhong issued an order, telling Wuming to fly off his shoulder to soar into a high altitude to scout the situation, and then he slowly turned around to face the holy monk in charge of the Jing Nian Chanzong.
Under the illumination of the starry sky, Liao Kong Dashi’s Dharma countenance was solemn, his right hand was holding a glittering golden small bell, his pair of eyes emitted a divine glorious light, he firmly looked at Kou Zhong.
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “Why would Dashi want to be drawn into the struggle between Xiaozi [this kid] and Li Shimin?”
Revealing a hint of indifferent smile, Liao Kong spoke softly, “How could those who had left their home have the desire to wade inside the matter of the dusty world? Qin Wang sent his men to tell Lao Na [old cassock] that Shaoshuai already reached the-mountain-and-river-exhausted situation, hoping that Lao Na could personally be the mediator to speak to Shaoshuai; if Shaoshuai is willing to disband the Shao Shuai Army, Qin Wang agrees to let Shaoshuai come back safely to Chenliu.”
Smiling bitterly, Kou Zhong said, “Li Shimin really knows how to call on someone. But how did Dashi know that I would slip out of the southern road exit to relieve boredom?”
Liao Kong said, “It’s all thanks to Qin Wang’s direction. He said that when Shaoshuai discovers Xiangyang’s army is approaching, he would personally travel to Zhongli, to lead the troops to come to resolve the hard-pressed Tian Cheng Gorge’s southern road. Therefore, Lao Na is waiting respectfully here, and this moment confirmed that Qin Wang did not speak empty words; it is thus clear that Shaoshuai’s movements are entirely within Qin Wang’s calculation.”
Kou Zhong breathed a sigh of relief. Li Shimin was, after all, a mortal and not an immortal; not only he did not know that Kou Zhong was not going to Zhongli to seek help, he also did not guess that Kou Zhong had a batch of firearms in his possession.
Liao Kong continued, “Qin Wang also wants Lao Na to give Shaoshuai a word of advice. The Shao Shuai Army in Zhongli has been placed under close supervision of another Tang Army’s navy fleet, they are unable to move a single step; Shaoshuai’s trip this time will only be in vain.”
Hearing that, Kou Zhong’s heart was full of admiration. Li Shimin was worthy to be called an outstanding expert in military strategy and tactics, battles and military affairs of the present age. In the troop deployment everywhere, he seized the initiative and occupied the upper hand. If there were no firearms as part of this secret-attack-ruthless-camp move, this moment he would have bowed down to admit defeat.
Hastily composing himself, he recovered his cool-headedness, took a deep breath, and said, “I wonder if Dashi’s trip this time is merely to give me advice in goodwill. Supposing Xiaozi obstinately persist in going about things the wrong way, Dashi will simply chant Amitabha Buddha and then without even looking back you return to the Chanyuan to continue practicing Zen Buddhist meditation, while Xiaozi will continue my journey?”
Liao Kong Dashi put a single palm in front of his chest in a greeting posture while chanting one of the many names of Buddha. He looked down and spoke serenely, “Sin! Sin! Those who had left their homes should not mind the dusty world’s affairs, but since this matter concerns the common people of the world, Lao Na received Qin Wang’s trust to do everything to persuade Shaoshuai to withdraw from this dispute. Therefore, I decided not to leave Shaoshuai’s side at this moment, until Shaoshuai is willing to give thought to the people of Pengliang. Please consider Lao Na’s proposal.”
Kou Zhong never expected that he would have this move. Hearing that, he was dumbstruck. If Liao Kong was following him like this, the entire counter-offensive plan would become a joke.
Looking up to the sky, Wuming’s flight posture was telling him that there were no other enemies nearby, inwardly he felt a bit better. Smiling wryly, he said, “I wonder if Dashi has already seen through that Xiaozi is unwilling to use force against you?”
Liao Kong smiled and said, “Shaoshuai’s words are too heavy! Lao Na only wants to explain with action. Qin Wang already opened the net on one side for Shaoshuai. If the one waiting here is not Lao Na but the great general under Qin Wang’s banner and thousands of Dark Armored Warriors, what would happen?”
Laughing involuntarily, Kou Zhong said, “Then Xiaozi would be very happy, because my spirited bird would find their trace one step ahead, and thus Xiaozi could change according to the situation, perhaps I could even make Qin Wang suffer lost soldiers and broken generals.”
Liao Kong sighed and said, “So it seems that Shaoshuai still refused to stop.
Frowning, Kou Zhong said, “There is something that Xiaozi does not understand, and I wish to consult Dashi.”
Liao Kong solemnly replied, “Shaoshuai, please give directions.”
Kou Zhong spoke slowly, word-by-word, “The Buddhist and Taoist, two schools, aren’t they enemies with the demonic school’s Two Sects and Six Ways? Dashi knew clearly that internally, the Li Clan has been corroded and corrupted by the demonic school, including the Tujue people, who have ambition of wild wolves toward our Central Earth. To a great extent, Li Shimin’s life and death are linked to my, Kou Zhong’s life and death. The day Li Shimin returning in triumph to the imperial court will be the day the hound will be boiled once the rabbit is caught. If I, Kou Zhong, accepted Dashi’s proposal to disband the Shao Shuai Army, it would be tantamount to doing the demonic school a huge favor. In the end, the ones receiving the benefit would not be anyone in the Central Earth, but Xieli, who has been uniting the various tribes on the prairies beyond the Great Wall.”
Liao Kong called one of the many names of Buddha, he said, “The unity and peace of the world, how could it be an easy thing that can be done overnight? Qin Wang has been mentally prepared for this. Shaoshuai’s words are not without any reason, however, you have not considered the consequences. If Shaoshuai can successfully establish a country, the world will become a north-south confrontation, the fire of war extends continuously, people are in a terrible situation, outside tribes will seize the opportunity to invade, the Central Earth will again fall into all-split-up-and-in-pieces chaotic situation. Since Shaoshuai already has the heart to save the world and to scald the demon, why not do everything to rectify the situation and help Qin Wang to bring order out of chaos, to let all the people to pass the auspicious days of happiness and peace?”
Kou Zhong spoke in astonishment, “Dashi’s remark makes me think a hundred times yet fail to understand; why do you want me, Kou Zhong to surrender to Li Shimin, and not Li Shimin being a courtier to me? Ultimately, Dashi is, from head to tail [idiom: through and through] baring one shoulder [idiom: to side with or to discriminate in favor of]. Furthermore, you are not being fair. Dashi should know how many of my comrades-in-arms died tragically under the Tang Army’s soldiers’ blade. Li Shimin and I are already two separate powers, either he died or I perished.”
Tranquil and calm, Liao Kong spoke indifferently, “Either you die or I perish, that is indeed the best portrayal of the war. Shaoshuai chose the road to contention for hegemony, you should have thought that this situation is bound to happen, blood hatred will only accumulate deeper and deeper. Lao Na is willing to speak to Shaoshuai on Qin Wang’s behalf, it is completely without any intention to bare one shoulder toward Qin Wang, but only giving consideration to the present situation. I am proposing the best recommendation to Shaoshuai, hoping that both sides can stop this dagger-axe, to avoid bringing disaster upon common people. Amitabha Buddha!”
Kou Zhong looked up at the night sky, he spoke heavily, “One day I, Kou Zhong, is still alive, to whom the deer falls is still unknown. I have a better proposal, I wonder if Dashi is willing to listen.”
Liao Kong’s eyes looked at his nose, his nose looked at his heart, his Dharma eyes were hidden, his treasured countenance solemn, he said, “Lao Na respectfully listen to Shaoshuai’s proposal.”
Letting out a long laughter, Kou Zhong said, “Very well! Dashi has already guessed my intention! Like Bi Xuan said, ultimately, war is resolved using martial art, not on negotiating table. I’ll make a bet against Dashi, supposing Dashi can defeat me, I will immediately disband the Shao Shuai Army, bend my head, and admit defeat. Dashi naturally can even kill me, naturally Shao Shuai Army will collapse like disappearing smoke. However, if Dashi cannot do anything to me, please return to Chanyuan immediately, in the future don’t mind the matter between Li Shimin and me.”
Liao Kong seemed to listen to Kou Zhong without hearing; he did not show any reaction, but suddenly, ‘Dang!’ the Dhyana bell produced a clear ring, Liao Kong called on one of the many names of Buddha, his countenance serene, he said, “Lao Na has not fought against anybody for nearly thirty years, I really do not wish to rush indiscriminately by raising the weapons of war. Is it possible for Lao Na to put a ten-move limit? As long as one of us is forced into the disadvantageous position, then that side can be considered lost.”
Kou Zhong smiled and asked, “And then what?”
Liao Kong opened his eyes to look at him, the expression showing in his eyes became unfathomably deep, the holy light was flashing, he also smiled in return and said, “Naturally if Lao Na loses, per our agreement, I will return to the meditation room to sit facing the wall, to repent from being easily moved by unwarranted thought.”
Kou Zhong’s Moon in the Well left its scabbard, it pointed to Liao Kong over a distance.
At that moment, it was as if Liao Kong suddenly melted into the night sky above, vast without boundary, infinite Dharma power, nowhere was not a flaw that anybody could take advantage of, yet also not one flaw anybody could take advantage of.
The expression showing in his eyes, which was abundant with wisdom, transcending the worldly affairs, deep and wide – seemed to be able to penetrate every intention in Kou Zhong’s heart, nothing was overlooked, nothing was missed.
Some kind dread and reverence feeling, which he himself was unable to explain, welled up from deep within Kou Zhong’s heart, a state of mind that he had never experienced before in any battle with the enemy, just like when climbing a mountain and one was suddenly confronted with the pulling force of a thousand-blade perilous peak, or when sailing on a boat in an angry sea at night, struggling against high waves and rapid wind, far from the shore, which created a powerless feeling that one would not be able to overcome.
The copper bell in Liao Kong’s right hand seemed to be more than ten thousand jin heavy, but it also seemed like it was as light as a feather; it was both enormous like a mountain, also empty and distant and indistinct like nothingness.
The pit of Kou Zhong’s stomach was tightening and closing, he nearly vomited blood.
Liao Kong chanted softly, “Three worlds are only in the heart, ten-thousand Dharma is only knowledge. No need to pursue, it was entirely created in the heart; there is no Dharma outside the heart, mysterious yellow fills the eyes, everything is enough.”
Kou Zhong pulled one step back, his mind entered the Moon in the Well realm, the mother earth his feet were standing on expanded in all directions, straight toward the border of the sky and the corner of the ocean. The Heaven and the Earth melted into one, and he himself became the core of the universe.
Heaven, Earth, and Man became inseparable, there was no other, no self.
The Liao Kong in his vision immediately reverted back to ‘material object’. Although there was still no flaw to find, it was no longer something elusive that he would not be able grasp.
His spirit became highly concentrated, the true qi within his body, the yang changed from moving extremely to complete stop, and the yin from standing still extremely to moving, following its natural changes; nothing defended, nothing was forgotten, nothing was restrained, nothing was released, nothing increased, nothing decreased, everything was going through divine changes naturally. The true qi condensed at the tip of his blade, forming qi power, which carried square within circle, and carried circle within square, attacking toward Liao Kong.
His move was precisely the most mysterious ‘Square and Circle’ within the ‘Eight Methods of the Well’. It is thus clear that he considered Liao Kong very formidable. Yet Liao Kong was able to use stillness to attack movement, displaying the Buddhist-style marvelous move of No Attack, so that Kou Zhong sank down to passive position, afterwards steadily taking the lead.
Even with Liao Kong’s level of cultivation, he still could not help revealing an astonished expression. The copper bell moved to the front of his chest, it appeared to be slow but was actually fast. The timing bore some resemblance with the long-life measurement of the heaven and earth, a mysterious feeling of the holy truth corresponding with divine spirited power. He chanted, “Shaoshuai’s single blade enters straight, so straight that its character can be seen. If you could study a moment of enlightenment, all living things will become Buddhas.”
Kou Zhong’s eyes no longer saw him, but the copper bell in front of his eyes expanded infinitely. He knew that he had no other choice even more, this saber strike simply had to be released, he simply had to attack. However, if he did so, in less than three moves, he would have to abandon his saber and admit defeat, because for the second time, his mind was under Liao Kong’s Zen power.
Kou Zhong let out a muffled snort, the Moon in the Well turned into yellow light, striking straight toward Liao Kong’s boundless Dharma Dhyana Bell.
Liao Kong’s Dharma-method martial art was definitely above any one of the Four Holy Monks; this was something that Kou Zhong was unable to imagine or guess before the battle started. Too bad he did not have any way to turn back.