Chapter 124 Scripture
Jade City embodied all of the sins and plots of the entire Western Regions. Naturally, almost all the people here believed in Buddha. Various kinds of temples and nunneries were everywhere both inside and outside the city. Indigenous deities from all corners of the world could gather faith and grow here.
High and indistinct, those gods were like swarms of vultures perched above a giant rotting corpse waiting to feed themselves. The inhabitants of Jade City often said, “The deeper you are steeped in sin, the more you would donate to a god and the larger the statue of the god would be.” So this lead to another conclusion, “The innocent have no faith.” What comforted the monks and daoist priests was that there were no innocent people in this city.
Amongst the countless temples, the Four Noble Truths Temple was the leader for good reason. Because of its large size, it could only be built outside the city, where there were as many as 1000 Buddhas and over 3000 monks. Its biggest benefactors were exactly Golden Roc Castle and the Meng family of the northern Jade City.
The Four Noble Truths Temple was above the world and seldom interfered with the intricacies of mortal struggles. The reason Gu Shenwei still remembered it was because it once made an exception and sent monks to escort an avenger up the mountain.
When Marshal Yang avenged the Gu family, he was followed by two monks. After Marshal Yang’s death, those two monks disappeared. At one point, Gu Shenwei thought that the Four Noble Truths Temple had a grudge against Golden Roc Castle, but later he realized that instead of helping Marshal Yang, they were actually sending him to the tiger’s mouth.
Marshal Yang made a vow at the Four Noble Truths Temple that if he couldn’t take revenge on the Mountain, he would slaughter Jade City. The monks agreed to escort him up the mountain with a weapon with the purposes of both to protecting the innocent and removing this malicious star.
This, in Gu Shenwei’s view, was a very efficient and unscrupulous way of ‘solving problems’.
When the uproar over the ‘evil possession’ incident finally came to an end, Madam Meng not only refocused the focus of the castle towards healing her daughter, but also towards vouching for the four brown-belted killers, “They have shared the same joys and sorrows with Ru’er, they only have merit and no faults.”
Madam Meng personally went to the Four Noble Truths Temple in the name of offering up sacred incense. The procession attracted so much attention that they had to set up tents outside the temple to accommodate all the people.
According to Godly Doctor Sun, he couldn’t cure Tenth Gongzi, but the Four Noble Truths Temple had a set of exorcism scriptures which might prove extremely effective.Tie Hanfeng had been trying to get the opportunity for his disciple to see a doctor, but when the opportunity finally came, it had nothing to do with him.
The six teenagers were first summoned to a dark hall. In front of many monks, laymen and shapeless Buddhas, Guo Xiansheng (Mr. Guo) of the White Clothes Yard (Bai Yi Yuan) talked eloquently, proving that Shangguan Ru and the other teenagers were not killers of Golden Roc Castle so they didn’t violate the original agreement when entering the desert.
“These two are misses of the Shangguan family and are not married yet. These four teenagers are still disciples and have never won the title of killer. According to the agreement–”, Mr. Guo showed a piece of white paper to the crowd, which was a copy of the original inscription, that read “‘The killers of Golden Roc Castle will never enter the desert’. See, the agreement only mentions killers’, so the other people of Golden Roc Castle can enter the desert at will. On the contrary, it was Waning Moon Hall who attacked the two misses and this disciple called Servant Huan even saw her appearance. Now that Waning Moon Hall has broken the truce, Golden Roc Castle will naturally accept the challenge . . . ”
When Guo Xiansheng (Mr. Guo) passionately presented his view, the two gongzis of the Shangguan family, now misses, were not very happy. For today’s matter, they wore female attire for the first time and felt very uncomfortable. It made them feel even more exasperated when the eyes of the public were fixed on them.
This was the result of a multi-party struggle. Golden Roc Castle needed the outsiders’ support in the war between the killers. Shangguan Ru and Shangguan Yushi had no choice but to temporarily change back to being misses.
The other four teenagers wore conspicuous brown belts, showing that they were not in the same category as the official killers.
Servant Huan even had a chance to speak. He re-described the mysterious dreamlike women he had seen while carefully observing the crowd, hoping to understand the complex relations between the forces of the Western Regions. But he was called back before he could find any clues.
The six teenagers quickly completed their task, left the hall, and did not see the rest of the scene. They only heard later that Guo Xiansheng had won the support of a considerable number of people, for which Unique King was delighted.
While the counsellor of Golden Roc Castle was arguing in the temple, the teenagers were climbing up a mountain to meet an important person.
Tiger Monk’s religious name was Lian Xin. He became famous and was known as the ‘Tiger Monk’ because he was always accompanied by a vegetarian tiger. His religious name was therefore rarely remembered.1
The exorcism scripture was kept by Tiger Monk, so the most important purpose of the teenager’s visit was to meet this legendary monk.
Tiger Monk didn’t live in the temple. He built several thatched cottages on a mountainside at the left of the Four Noble Truths Temple and cultivated all by himself year long. The monk called the thatched cottages ‘Left Mountainside Vihara’ and preferred peace, so the six teenagers were led by an attendant monk to walk up the mountain.
Shangguan Ru was very, very unhappy about her situation and kept pulling at her clothes the whole way. Not only did she have to wear female attire, but her upcoming thirteenth birthday was also disrupted. In order to show that the title of ‘Tenth Gongzi’ was just a joke, she couldn’t formally take the title of ‘young lord’ for the time being and naturally couldn’t have her own courtyard or control a team of killers.
Shangguan Ru was even more chagrined especially by the fact that her brother, Shangguan Fei, had all that. As she walked along, she shook the trees and broke off grass leaves, resulting in the deaths of countless insects. Even Shangguan Yushi wasn’t able to persuade her. She was only a bit happier at the thought of seeing a tiger that didn’t eat meat.
The teenagers originally thought that the eminent monk must be an old monk with a solemn and withered face. It was only after meeting him that they found that he was a handsome, straightforward, middle-aged monk. Also, the only mark of penance he had was his pale, almost transparent skin. He was neither pedantic nor insincere in dealing with people, talking casually about the news in a friendly way and treating everyone equally by personally holding six bowls of water to treat the guests.
The Tiger Monk was interested in the roc that had disturbed the castle a few months ago, and even revealed that he wanted to sacrifice his life to try to influence it. But Gu Shenwei suspected that the monk probably did not suit the red-crowned roc’s tastes.
The teenagers also saw that famous tiger. It lay beside the monk with its huge mouth open and its belly swollen like hand bellows. It looked listless.
A vegetarian tiger is probably like a killer without a sabre, Gu Shenwei thought. He was not armed with his sabre now and every now and then would have a sudden feeling of restlessness in his heart which must then be repressed for him to keep calm.
After chatting for about an hour, Tiger Monk finally got to the point. He turned and pulled out a flat bundle from under the tiger’s belly. A piece of burnt clay tablet was exposed as he opened the bundle, which was filled with thickly printed characters. There were visible traces of missing parts of the clay tablet, as if only half of it was left.
Shangguan Ru’s attention shifted from the tiger to the clay tablet. “Is this the exorcism scripture?”
Tiger Monk caressed the clay tablet, “Exactly. The scripture was written by a peerless expert. Time flies, and not only did that peerless expert die, but the characters he used to write this were also lost. About three hundred years ago, another expert deciphered it and translated it into the language of the Central Plains. This expert somehow decided to only leave the pronunciation of the scripture and not the meanings. Therefore, we know what the scripture sounds like, but its true meaning has already been lost to time.”
Puzzled, Shangguan Ru stared at the clay tablet and asked, “Since the meaning is already gone, does it still work for exorcising evil spirits?”
The monk smiled while he shook his head, “This is precisely the mystery of the sutra. The expert who rewrote the scripture was probably worried that people of the world would cling to the meaning of text, take illusion as reality, and be possessed by the evil spirits instead of exercising them. So the true meaning of the scripture was deliberately hidden. However, there are a few characters in the text, the original meaning of which has been passed down. You’ve come from Golden Roc Castle and are naturally familiar with it.”
The monk turned the clay tablet over, pointed to the first line of the characters, which was written as ‘Yun Ni Wu Fen Bie Long Hu Wu Fang Deng You Qing Qing Bu You Nan Ke Fa Ling Ye.’ But what the monk recited was ‘The soul rises to the nine heavens, the spirit falls to the nine abysses. The living suffers in grief, the dead settle in peace.’
“Death Sutra!” The teenagers almost blurted it out. These were exactly the characters muttered when someone of Golden Roc Castle died.
“Right, this sutra is called Nan Ke Fa Ling, which means the soul of a deceased person reincarnates and the dead settle in peace. So it’s reasonable to call it Death Sutra.”
Shangguan Ru scratched the hair on her temple, “So, these characters come from here, it’s really a waste for me to have recited it for so many years. I surprisingly didn’t even know its origins.”
“No wonder, this sutra is not a classic scripture of Buddhism, so not many people know about it.”
As Tiger Monk finished, he started teaching the scripture. Although the characters on the clay tablet were only numbered about 1000 or so, they were all transliterated. It seemed to have profound meaning, which made the readers unconsciously want to explore the secret of it and forget to recite. Many characters were also pronounced strangely. For example it was clearly the character ‘Yun’ but one had to read as ‘Ren’. So it would be even worse if no one instructed one on how to read it.
Tiger Monk taught the characters to them one by one, and the teenagers carefully memorized them. Wild Horse couldn’t speak, so the monk told him it would also work if he recited silently in his heart.
The six teenagers spent seven full days at the Left Mountainside Vihara before they could recite it fluently from memory.
Shangguan Ru didn’t care too much about being ‘possessed by evil spirits’ and only wanted to tease the tiger. She approached the tiger inch by inch and finally was able to touch the tiger’s head on the third day and touch its whiskers on the fourth day. This made her very excited, and she felt it was much more interesting than learning the so called evil-exorcising Death Sutra.
Shangguan Yushi always stayed by Shangguan Ru’s side. For the tiger, she only dared to approach, but not touch it.
Wild Horse spent more time on martial arts training. They were not allowed to bring a sabre into the mountain, so he used a broken off branch instead. He spent more than half of the time alone, slashing and chopping with the branch.
As usual, Liuhua disappeared not long after they got up the mountain and only appeared to eat and sleep.
Only Gu Shenwei and Lotus diligently recited the Death Sutra and repeatedly asked for the pronunciation of each character. In the end, Tiger Monk spent more than half of his time teaching these two teenagers.
In fact, the two were not only interested in the verses on the clay tablets, but also shocked.
As soon as the monk showed the clay tablet, even without a careful check, the two found that the characters on the tablet were already something that they had memorized. They were exactly the characters written on the last several pages of the mysterious sword manual, the only difference being that there were 4000 or 5000 characters in the mysterious book but only 1000 or so characters on the half clay tablet.
From then on, Gu Shenwei and Lotus called the nameless sword manual Death Sutra. But they were still full of doubts. Was the true meaning of the scripture a set of method for practicing internal energy? What was its relationship with Golden Roc Castle and Tiger Monk? How did it fall into the abyss and end up being preserved by the two golden-crowned rocs?
The two discussed in private for a long time, but found nothing. But they knew that this set of verses had a remarkable effect. It could help turn the Desolate Finger energy into their own internal energy at the dantian even when they recited it with the wrong pronunciation; could it be even better if they recited it correctly?
The two teenagers had to turn to Tiger Monk for help, which resulted in the death of the eminent monk.
- Translator’s note: Lian Xian literally means Lotus Nut. ↩