Long Live The Emperor!

Chapter 4

Ascending Meru

“Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness: they neither appear nor disappear, are neither tainted nor pure, and neither increase nor decrease. Therefore, the void has no form, sensation, perception, impulse, or consciousness; no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or mind; no sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, or reasoning; no realms from sight to consciousness…”

Under the candlelight.

In the chamber.

Day after day, the imperial prince chanted the sutras. His voice was sincere and bore a genuine indifference to the ways of the world.

This made Eunuch Mei—who sat at the gazebo three hundred meters away—nod frequently. He held a flywhisk in one hand, a cup of hot tea in the other. Propping his leg, he sneered.

The Seventh Imperial Prince had spent the past two years reading sutras. His temperament had been worn out, judging from his actions yesterday. The Ninth Imperial Princess had likely told him the news of her marriage to Tujue, but the imperial prince had not become outraged. It was evident that he had gone weak and soft.

Xia Ji chanted into the afternoon when the sound of familiar footsteps came from outside. Shortly after, the door opened. The Ninth Imperial Princess closed the door before turning and making an indignant face.

“Xiaosu, what’s wrong?”

“Brother, the monk at Leiyin Temple told me that the Past Dipankara Sutra was their secret Buddhist manuscript. The temple rules that only those who ascended the ninth peak of Mount Meru and bested the former abbot at the mountaintop in a game are qualified to read the Past Dipankara Sutra.”

Mount Meru was an oddity beyond the Imperial City. All year round, it was draped in mist, which only thickened the further one explored. Moreover, Leiyin Temple was only at its fifth peak.

Xia Xiaosu continued, “I told the monk that you’re imprisoned here, unable to leave the palace, and that you’re requesting the book solely because you’re obsessed with Buddhist teachings. The monk only said that the temple has its rules, just like the palace, and told you to give up on it if there’s no chance of you leaving.

Xia Ji thought for a moment before saying abruptly, “Xiaosu, find the emperor and tell him that I’d like to summit Mount Meru for a game. It’s just for a book, and I’ll depart by day and be sure to return by night.”

Xia Xiaosu was afraid of the emperor. However, considering that she only had three months to spend with her brother, after which she would end up in the wilderness—that endless hell—she shelved her fears. She nodded. “Alright.”

By evening, the Ninth Imperial Princess returned.

The moment she came in, she smiled. “Brother, he agreed to it. You can leave the palace tomorrow.”

Xia Ji beckoned. Xia Xiaosu walked to his side.

“Xiaosu, sit by me.”


The two siblings sat in the twilight of the archive chamber. All of a sudden, Xia Xiaosu sighed, lightly resting her head on her brother’s shoulder. Her lips pursed and the spark in her eyes faded, revealing a mild gloom.

Xia Ji reached out with his left hand to clasp his sister’s shoulder, asking, “What did you promise him?”

Xia Xiaosu’s body quivered. She turned her head away and stared gloomily at the floor.

The chamber fell into silence.

The silence was broken as Xia Xiaosu started, “I promised him that I would willingly go to Tujue; that I would do my best to foster the alliance between Tujue and Dashang.”

Xia Ji’s fingers remained gentle, only squeezing her shoulder ever so slightly as he pulled his sister into his embrace.

Xia Xiaosu abruptly began to bawl, softly questioning and pleading, “Why? Why? Why are things like this? What did we do wrong?”

Xia Ji allowed her to weep.


Cry as much as you need to.

Then you will be able to grow.

Three months.

That was enough.

He lifted his head to look at the vast sky outside the window. His eyes were calm, quiet as the beginning of creation—the calm before the storm.

The following day.

Mild snow.

Eunuch Mei had prepared the carriage. In a voice that carried a hint of mockery, he squeaked, “Seventh Imperial Prince, if you may.”

Without hesitation, Xia Ji immediately boarded the carriage. The emperor was already gracious in allowing him passage, so why should he permit others to accompany him? Eunuch Mei, on the other hand, was here to oversee Xia Ji. Naturally, the terms differed.

The abbot of Leiyin Temple knew that the imperial prince was coming, but did not personally receive the detained prince. Instead, he had sent a young novice monk as their guide, who brought Xia Ji to the mountains beyond.

At the forefront, the young monk led the way.

Xia Ji walked in between.

Eunuch Mei followed them in silence.

At the entrance to the ninth peak, the novice monk stopped at the gate. Putting his palms together, he spoke, “Patron, please ascend the mountain alone. The match will be at the summit.”

Xia Ji immediately walked past the gate. Eunuch Mei followed him, but the young monk hastily added, “Eunuch, the temple has its rules. Only the challenger may ascend the mountain. Otherwise, they will not be allowed to proceed.”

Eunuch Mei objected, “I am the Imperial Emperor’s steward. Must I too be bound to your rules?”

The novice monk responded, “Please do not inconvenience…”

Ignoring him, Eunuch Mei was about to push his way past the gate when Xia Ji suddenly interjected, “Eunuch Mei, if the temple has rules, they must be followed.

“If you insist on coming and I am unable to contend, I’ll have you know that I can still speak to His Highness upon my return, despite being an imperial prince under house arrest.”

Eunuch Mei hesitated as he weighed out the situation. There was no need for him to entangle himself with this already forsaken prince. If he truly upset the emperor, he would have much to lose. Considering this, he laughed his remark off. “Very well. I’ll wait down here for the imperial prince.”

From across the threshold, the young monk breathed a sigh of relief and gave Xia Ji a friendly smile.

Naturally, Xia Ji did not mean to help him; he simply did not want Eunuch Mei standing behind him during the match.

Beyond the gate was a snow-capped ridge. In the distance, the mist draped the mountains.

Step by step, the imperial prince of Dashang climbed, leaving the monk and the eunuch far behind, as he slowly disappeared into the sea of thick winter mist.

He came here not to seek Buddha, but to acquire the sutra.

An hour later, Xia Ji had already reached the mountaintop.

The summit was a plateau. The fog was sparse here, though the surroundings remained overcast. It was as if he was walking in the sky, unable to see the human realm below him.

Xia Ji looked up. In the middle of the plateau was a huge boulder that looked like a natural gameboard. On the other side of this board, an old monk sat with his legs crossed.

Seeing the arrival of a person, the old monk did not invite him to sit before continuing to speak, “I heard from the abbot that you wish to set your eyes on the Past Dipankara Sutra. If you want to read it, you must pass the trial. This trial does not test one’s skill, but one’s Zen. If your Zen is insufficient, the trial will cause your hair to whiten and your body to age several decades. From then on, your heart will feel as though it is suppressed by a nightmare. Unless you fast from certain foods and chant sutras day and night—constantly abiding with the ancient buddha by candlelight—you will not achieve inner peace.”

Xia Ji nodded solemnly, indicating that he understood, then walked to the board side opposite the old monk.


The old monk’s voice sounded again. “Do you believe that my words are too enigmatic and that this is but a ruse?

Xia Ji stopped in his tracks. He shook his head. “I have yet to assume so.”

The old monk shook his head, believing that the young imperial prince before him still did not understand the gravity of the matter at hand; that he was completely oblivious to the nature of the match he was going to play. He sighed, “Then before you take a seat, listen to this story I have to tell. If you still wish to continue after the story is finished, then it will be fated karma, to which I will no longer object.”

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