The Sage Who Transcended Samsara Chapter 471
Three days later, in a VIP room within an inn.
Outside the doors of the suite, Hu Dou stood guard. No passersby passed without first being scrutinised by the irate but watchful manservant. He was holding back his anger by a thin thread. If irked, even just a little, Hu Dou would have erupted into a fit, yelling at every passing face. “What is there to ogle at?” he thought crossly, “Have you not seen anyone standing guard before?”
Even as a child, the Prince had never been particularly gifted with robustness. Instead, he was afflicted with fragile health and the subsequent dismissive attitude of the Emperor. Only Hu Dou the eunuch had remained faithful, serving the prince as a staunch sentinel with skills of the Half-Step from the Exterior. For many years, he had stood beside the prince with steadfast loyalty and unwavering devotion. They were very close to each other, for they shared the curse of being forsaken, jilted and banished from sight and concern. Yet, the Prince has been exceedingly secretive of late. He had recently taken to attending secretive and surreptitious meetings, a practice that had interestingly, only emerged recently.
Anxious, he could no longer contain himself and suppress the creeping curiosity. He projected his spiritual senses and felt for any unknown presence or movements while calming himself. He forced himself into an unusual calm and still state of mind, the likeness of a still, peaceful lake, and attempted to uncover the identity of his lord’s private guest.
“It is my duty as the lord’s retainer to ensure the lord’s safety and wellbeing…”Hu Dou convinced himself.
A picturesque view of the suite began to form in his mind. A roundtable, a little cauldron, smoldering with burning incense and a window frame at the side of the suite came into view with rising definition. There sat his lord, Zhao Heng, the Prince of Wei, on a stool by the table. His state in Oneness of Heaven and Man allowed Hu Dou to grasp the prince’s kingly aura and his powers that vibrated in the air and his surroundings in resonance with Nature, faintly obscuring Hu Dou’s spiritual perception of his lord’s visage.
And opposite Zhao Heng, Hu Dou peered intently with his spiritual vision. Yet he could see nothing. An emptiness space sat in the seat opposite his master. No one else save his master seemed to be present in the suite. A light breeze blew through the open window and into the room, creating a light and evanescent rush of wind that confirmed his findings. The nothingness that he felt bore appeared to be like a large expanse of the blue skies where the white clouds floated about lazily.
No voices, not even a sound, came from within. Nothing could be heard from the outside because of an energy barrier which had shrouded the entire room.
Zhao Heng sat alone in the empty suite. Suddenly, the windows swung open even though there was no wind gusting. A greenish blur flowed through the window into the room. When the fleeting blur halted and came into focus, Meng Qi sat opposite Zhao Heng, relaxed and carefree as he lifted a pair of chopsticks. He reached for a piece of braised mutton and deposited the juicy meat into his mouth and began to eat.
“True mutton from the prairie grasslands indeed,” said Meng Qi appreciatively, squinting in satisfaction.
Zhao Heng froze, struck by the swfit and enigmatic entry of his companion. He had felt nothing until the rush of air that followed the greenish blur. Nothing save the turbulent rush of surging air. Yet his sight, his smell, and his nose clearly informed him that Meng Qi was squarely before him!
“He has fully mastered the Oneness of Heaven and Man and had even achieved absolute attunement to Nature…” Zhao Heng guessed. His extensive experience of braving the perilous adventures of the Samsara realms and his profound knowledge in his studies told him of Meng Qi’s present state. Still, he could not help but be amazed by the swift and rapid progress of his companion. Meng Qi, for all accounts and purposes, had only fully unsealed his Ninth Aperture a little more than a year ago!
Nevertheless, it was the very same flair and gift that had enabled him to slay the Wolf King!
“I hazard there has been a development?” Meng Qi asked, but not before first devouring some meat.
Zhao Heng nodded and replied, “I have what you seek. Both of them.”
“The Gu Changqing which you seek stepped foot into the capital three years ago. He was here to seek refuge with his kin, the Xie Clan. He took up lodging at their residence for a half year but suffered ill hospitality in the hands of his kin. Soon after he joined the Armed Escort Agency of the Central Province and moved to his current private residence at the Jiaochang Street. He is presently a lesser warden for the armed escort services, in charge of a consignment of goods being hauled to Luoyang from the South. And he shall return in several days.”
Meng Qi listened closely to the information his companion revealed. He would see Gu Changqing when he returned to the capital. For better or worse, he was the first friend Meng Qi had made during those first years of stepping into Jianghu.
“Yang Wuliang is a Tai Shang Elder of a lesser sect in Southern Ningzhou Province,” Zhao Heng continued without pause. “His savagery and cunning are renoun and have made him considerable enemies amongst the foul and evil folk. He is presently in the capital, a guest of my third brother. He is serving my brother on retainer in return for martial techniques of the Exterior Scenery.” He paused briefly before asking, “What is your business with him, Xiao Meng?”
Meng Qi sipped at his wine and answered, “Others have bid me to make an errand. Yang Wuliang has been languishing in his barbarity and horrors long enough. His reckoning is coming.”
“You plan to execute him?” Zhao Heng asked, frowning slightly, “It may prove to be quite a challenge.”
“How so?” Meng Qi asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Scores of warriors with the powers of the Exterior Scenery abound in the capital city,” Zhao Heng explained, “The residence of the Third Prince shares a street, the Chang Ming Alley, with two other residences of illustrious and influential clans. The families boast more than three masters of the Exterior within their household. They will sense even the slightest hint of disturbance. Thus, not even a grandmaster of the Terrestrial Ranking would dare incite a mayhem in the capital. Woe befalls all who manage to get caught.”
“Word of the attempt on the Crown Prince’s life has reached the ears of the Third Prince, setting him on edge. His residence will be surrounded with various detection and protective barriers when the sun sets. No one can enter unnoticed.”
“You would do well to account for the presence of the eunuch Feng Zheng and other unknown prodigies hidden behind the doors of the Prince Jin’s Residence. It would hardly be a simple walk in the park if you are intent on executing Yang Wuliang.”
Meng Qi brooded on the complications to his plan, and asked, “Does Yang Wuliang not step outside?”
“No. He has been studying and training night and day ever since he was bestowed the martial discipline of the Exterior Scenery which he had so coveted.” Zhao Heng’s intel was truly precise and detailed.
Meng Qi tapped the top of the table lightly, as if to the beat of the musical instruments played by the street peddlers outside. “I see. Do you have the daily patrol roster of the residence which Yang Wuliang is of?”
“Have a care! There is no need for such hastiness. There will still be ample opportunities in the future,” cautioned Zhao Heng earnestly, his face turning stern.
Meng Qi smiled and answered, “Worry not, my friend. I know what I am doing.”
Zhao Heng peered into the eyes of his companion and saw only unwavering resolution. Doubt and weariness fell away. His confidence in his companion was renewed and he continued with his report of his recent findings.
Meng Qi took everything that Zhao Heng has reported under deep consideration. With his designs drawn out, he smiled confidently, “Look to me at the side entrance at the rear of your residence at midday tomorrow. Ready the barriers for activation.”
“What is your plan?” Zhao Heng did not have the faintest doubt in Meng Qi, even though his schemes might implicate him. heir survival through their adventures together thus far was a testament of his trustworthiness.
Meng Qi rose and walked to the window to admire the night sky,
“Retainers swore loyalty to their lords to defend them with their lives, not to be defended themselves.”
The retainers of a lord indulged not in the luxury of comfort and safety of an impregnable defense. Rather, they complemented the first line of defense against any invading scourge of menace!
Memories of his former assassination assignment in Yi City came back to him like it was yesterday.
His robes fluttered in the wind and he was gone in a flash.
The sun burned brightly in the sky so that most people could not bear to wrench their eyelids open. The blinding brilliance shone on the backs of all who walked in its glow, weighing them with fatigue and weariness.
Cicadas sang incessantly from the trees they perched, rendering a monotonous, plodding lullaby that filled all who heard it with drowsy weariness.
It was an early midday in the autumn. For all that lived in Luoyang, their limbs heavy with a lingering languor. The soldiers and sentinels of the capital patrolled about lethargically, staggering lazily with their backs bent as if bearing an invisible load.
“I was warned that when I first entered the Jianghu that noon is the most agreeable moment for an assassination, not the dark, ” blustered Yang Wuliang to his two minions, who were overseeing the patrol of the prince’s residence.
He was but a robust man of forty summers. Still, he preferred addressing himself as an elder.
“Why not the night, sir?” asked one of his minions.
Yao Wuliang stroked his beard and laughed casually, “Anyon in Jianghu would know that the pitch-black darkness of a moonless night, when the wind blows its tempestuous wrath, would be best for the cunning designs of an assassination. Thus, anyone would be wary and have proper measures ensured. Hidden traps of devious design, pitfalls that lurk to pounce on the unwary, and watchful sentinels using the spiritual vision and so many more. No one would risk an assassination when instead the hunter would become the hunted. But in midday, the sun shines high in the sky. Darkness does not suffer the brightness of the sun where shadows would creep and hide in despair. Anyone would be inclined to misjudge that safety is assured in brightness. They would be careless and off guard.”
“With the blistering heat of the sun comes also the drowsy laziness that weighs on our backs. Fatigue would set in and replace the swiftness and nimbleness needed in the face of a sudden crisis. Heads would have rolled before anyone knew what had transpired.”
“Thank you very much, sir, for your guiding words,” said the lackey thoughtfully.
The young sentry had learned his trade from the martial clubs of the capital and had entered and pledged his services to the Residence of Prince Jin upon the completion of his training. His ignorance of Jianghu had him listening intently to Yang Wuliang’s ramblings speech with rapturous enchantment, filling him with wonder.
Yang Wuliang nodded to himself, immensely satisfied. Acquaintances and allies would be needed for his continued success in his services to Prince Jin, helping him compete with the other retainers of the household.
“Without a doubt, that was a rule of survival in Jianghu,” he remarked with a grin, “This is the capital of Luoyang. Great warriors with powers of the Exterior Scenery teem in this great city. Surely no crook or scoundrel would dare commit heinous acts in broad daylight.”
“Even if he was lucky enough to have done the deed, would luck be able to deliver him to safety?
“Of course, we have Eunuch Feng, who is a true prodigy with powers of the Exterior Scenery!” interjected another of the sentries.
They turned a corner and reached the side entrance of the residence as they talked. Guarding the entrance were a few more sentries who were also beleaguered with drowsiness. With a few words of reproach, they roused the sentries from their dreary stupor.
“It is really boring at midday…” yawned one of the sentries when Yang Wuliang was not listening.
A wooden rickety cart bearing a load of charcoal turned the corner and rolled slowly towards them. A few men from the band of sentries went to inspect the cart to make sure everything was in order.
Yang Wuliang threw a brief glance at the wooden cart. He squinted his eyes in the blinding sunlight, confident that all was well. He beckoned to his men to follow him as they continued their patrol.
The man, a man clad in blue, who had been pushing the wooden cart, straightened his back and stood tall suddenly. With long strides, he sped forward and leaped high over the sentries and landed beside Yang Wuliang.
The sudden change of events caught everyone unawares.
The intruder was none other than Meng Qi. Long had he waited for this opportunity to arrive. He had replaced the cart driver pushing the cartload of charcoal, laying in wait for Yang Wuliang to make his appearance.
Channeling his energy, Qi, and spirit, his right arm struck. His fists clenched tightly and his knuckles turned white as he attacked his foe with tremendous fury!
Yang Wuliang was taken by surprise by his assailant’s lightning assault. The shadow of his foe loomed over him menacingly. Vaguely he recognized the elderly features of his foe and his bear-like girth. The air trembled with his powers with poured forth from him. Frozen and crippled, he could not move an inch until the fierce stroke of his adversary’s fist came at him.
“So be it!” He exclaimed to himself as anger and rage took over his shame and embarrassment of his blunder. His fists balled, and he retaliated with a punch of his own. The torrential force of his reparte surged like the thrashing waves of a storm, meeting the attack of his foe with equal force.
Feng Zheng stood by his master, the Prince Jin. His half-closed eyes widened at the sensation of the turbulent energies tossing wildly outside.
Meng Qi struck with all the ferocity he could muster. Unexpectedly his clenched fist relaxed, the fingers opening into a claw and into a palm. His former stroke of wrath and malice turned graceful as he guided Yang Wuliang’s fists and his lashing surge of energies towards himself.
Strangely, Yang Wuliang felt his body drawn forward by an invisible force. His fists struck the center of his adversary’s palm, feeling it give, as soft as silk. Yet golden gossamer threads of nets appeared from where he had struck, silky and supple, yet indestructible.
Damn! His foe’s left hand, he saw, was raised up high. A mysterious inky aura emanated from his palm, a force of unknown sorcery. Swiftly, his foe struck, darkness descended with the semblance of the upheaval of Heaven and Earth, as if Heaven and Earth were torn asunder!
Meng Qi’s Vital Spirit reigned in the center of his Inner World. Below him was the Celestial, formed by his Nine Apertures and his vital organs, the manifestation of his inner universe by the powers of his aperture acupoints.
Boundless and infinite, there was no front or back, no left or right. There was no beginning and no end. A hand was raised over his head. Quick and sudden his palm struck upon the Celestial, annihilating it into oblivion. All creations were undone just like the Primordial Beginning had come once again.
A strong will with the terrifying vastness of a mountain and the malice of unrelenting horror could be felt weaving together as one!
With the stroke of his Vital Spirit, Meng Qi’s left palm struck forth and became one with the silhouette of his Vital Spirit. His gesture was a staunch and resolute end to all charge.
Unable to stand by any longer, Feng Zheng rose to his feet.He hesitated a moment, unsure of whether to create a diversion and separate his master from his guard. He remained rooted at where he stood, unable to decide if he should remain steadfastly by the side of his lord and command retainers to attend to the threat outside and conjure their protective barrier. Yet a little voice within him urged him to wait no longer and finish off any threats with his own hands.
He could feel the watchful presence of other vigilant sentinels nearby. Defenders of the other noble households in the surroundings. Yet none of them had made any move.
Yang Wuliang’s insides twisted in the face of the impending strike. Caught between the hammer and the anvil, his right hand remained held by the mysterious powers that his foe wield. With his tricks exhausted and time running out, he could only raise his left hand to parry his foe’s fatal stroke.
Darkness clasped its bony fingers around Yang Wuliang and began to consume him. Heaven and earth spiraled before his eyes, turning into prisms of dancing lights, darting around as his left hand was easily deflected and a white palm smacked his forehead!
Yang Wuliang’s skull cracked. Blood began to drip from the wounds on his head. With the force of his quarry’s punch, Meng Qi propelled himself backward into the air, evading the surrounding sentries closing in on him. With ease, he leaped out of the entrance.
Hesitating no more, Feng Zheng sped with the speed of a bird in flight and pursued the unknown assassin.
Meng Qi ran swiftly, fast as he could into the busy streets. Into the mob of swarming passersby, he vanished without a trace.
Feng Zheng’s face grew livid as he felt himeslf losing the trace of his prey. With growing anxiety, he took flight and increased his pace.
Suddenly, the trace disappeared! It just disappeared!
His eyes widened in terror, then his pupils contracted almost to nothing. From the sky, he surveyed the hustle and bustle of the crowded streets below him. The surrounding residences of the nobles had conjured their protective barriers, amongst them, Prince Wei’s Residence in the Duozi Alley.
“Blasted mongrel!” he cursed with irrepressible fury.
“The hardest part of committing a murder in Luoyang is securing an escape. But that is not a problem for me,” Meng Qi grinned with delight at Zhao Heng, cleverly hidden within Prince Wei’s Residence.
A Samsara Charm would be his very soon!