The Sage Who Transcended Samsara 604 The Tale Of The Jade Virtual Palace
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His companions would not have any apprehension over the old Taoist's recently revealed ident.i.ty because they knew nothing about him. However, Meng Qi, in his former incarnation in the realm of Earth, had read books about the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States Periods. He had roared with laughter many times at the amusing and whimsical name given to Duke Huan: Xiaobai!
When he later found out that there were other members of the household who had been given the informal names Wuzhi and Zhu'er, which literally meant "Ignorant" and "All Sons" respectively, Meng Qi became indifferent to the name of Duke Huan, which meant "Little White". Despite being in a different realm – the Apotheosized World – Meng Qi could not be certain if the man before him was indeed the Duke Huan of Qi. However, at the very mention of one who had "the surname of Jiang of the Lineage of Lü, and the given name of Xiaobai", Meng Qi immediately thought of no other than the Duke Huan!
"Do I have the honor of addressing Senior Lü from the State of Qi?" Meng Qi repressed his earlier surprise and bowed respectfully.
The Six Hegemons had long withdrawn themselves from the sight of the ma.s.ses, so Meng Qi surmised that they may have adopted posthumous styles more befitting of their status and seniority like "Heng" or "Zhuang". With the elder before him being a living remnant from the ancient age, Meng Qi could hardly address him directly as Duke Huan, especially when the elder was a senior.
Duke Huan laughed jovially and answered. "There is no need for ceremony. We are, after all, fellow students of the Jade Virtual Palace. Moreover, this I have something that he would like to request your aid for."
Having reached the crux of their conversation, Meng Qi quickly asked, "Is there anything I can help you with, Senior?"
Duke Huan stroked his beard thoughtfully. "It is only a trivial matter. I need you to transform your appearance and come with me to meet King Zhuang. All you have to do is to identify the item that he had retrieved from the Jade Virtual Palace. I thought that you might recognize it since you seem to have an untold connection to it."
"You know nothing about it, Uncle Master?" Meng Qi grabbed the opportunity and addressed Duke Huan as Uncle Master after the elder repeatedly reiterations of the relations they shared with the Jade Virtual Palace gave him the opportunity to establish ties.
Duke Huan frowned slightly. "It is not what I once thought it to be. I suspect that it may have some other unknown origins."
He showed no displeasure nor irk to being called Uncle Master.
Meng Qi refrained from delving deeper, seeing as the elder commented no further on the matter. He changed the subject instead. "Is there a fixed frequency in the appearance of the Jade Virtual Palace, Uncle Master?"
It was a matter of utmost importance to him—deep within the Palace the complete legacy of the Heavenly Golden Scripture might be hidden!
"There has not been a regular re-appearance, but each time the Palace appeared, there would always be variations in the fabric of Nature. The common folk may not be able to notice these phenomenal signs, but those with powers and culmination of disciplines of levels on par with me, King Zhuang or the others could easily perceive them. Especially in recent re-appearances, where the anomalies seemed to affect even the flow of Time. At present, the pace of Time has deviated from its course. Time seems to pa.s.s quicker now. I fear that the pace may not be able to be restored to its former progression..." The voice of Duke Huan trailed off as he continued mumbling incomprehensibly to himself. He had shown no apprehension nor fear that Meng Qi would be able to find the Jade Virtual Palace before he did.
Meng Qi listened closely without uttering a word. Then, he skillfully interjected. "So we will be able to locate the Jade Virtual Palace by observing the phenomenal signs of Nature?"
Duke Huan nodded in response. "Following the failures of our earlier encounters, we slowly discovered a pattern. Finally, in its last re-appearance, we were able to enter the Palace. But it wasn't long before we were thrown out of the Palace halls without any prize or results. King Zhuang was the only one who was able to retrieve something. So now I am requesting you to identify the item that he retrieved. Your observations may be able to provide more insight into the nature of the Palace. In time, we might be able to enter the Palace on our own will or even enjoy a more fruitful visit next time."
After speaking, the elder Taoist sighed heavily. "My advanced age may only permit me one last visit to the Palace before my end nears," said Duke Huan with melancholy. "My forefathers labored for a long time and yet the attainment of the Dharmakaya remained elusive. Thus the Heavenly Golden Script that I inherited have not the chapters of the Dharmakaya levels. It was through fortuitous encounters and my former position as the leader of the Six Hegemons that I reached the current cultivation of my powers and abilities."
He paused and gazed solemnly into the sky. "Since the calamities that followed the end of the Apotheosis War, leaving unknown mysteries and restrictions, my level of power has only allowed me to see and read the signs. But I refuse to yield to Fate! I have much ambition and hope for the re-appearances of the Palace so that I can still procure the entirety of the impartation as well as the concoctions of Kunlun that bestows immortality."
"Concoctions that bestows immortality?" Meng Qi took a light breath as he caught the significance of the words. "That would mean that the present warriors or pract.i.tioners of the Dharmakaya have only three hundred more years to live!"
He decided to focus on something else and began asking about the mysteries and restrictions that had been imposed. However, Duke Huan was less than forthcoming about the matter due to an unknown reservation on his part. This only served to fuel Meng Qi's curiosity.
Taking his cue, Meng Qi changed the subject and brought up another matter of concern. "Uncle Master, do you know why the Master Primogenitor and the rest of the Line of the Jade Virtual Palace have withdrawn out of sight and retreated into hiding?"
The topic made Duke Huan's expression turn glum. "One of my forefathers left word on this. In the ancient past, huge losses were suffered by both factions of deities following the devastation of the lands. It was then that the deities came to an understanding that they will forsake the already-decadent Dynasty of Shang and jointly support the rise of King Wu. The three supreme Primogenitors and two Buddhist Patriarchs then retreated into seclusion."
"This matches the information I received from The Immortals..." Meng Qi nodded thoughtfully.
"In the third year after the devastation, the Sky-reaching Eminentor vanished and no one knows what became of the Azure Palace. On the fifth year, the Primogenitor Daode himself and the Tusita Palace vanished simultaneously. By the ninth year, our Master Primogenitor and the rest of the Line of the Jade Virtual Palace slipped into hiding with Mount Kunlun sealed from the world indefinitely. By the eleventh year, the Pure Lands of Buddhism had all vanished from the face of the world." Duke Huan's expression turned a bit suspicious at his own recollections, "In the decades that followed, many of the deities left. Some were even found to have pa.s.sed away."
"Left?" Meng Qi asked, confused.
Duke Huan nodded his head gently. "Because they all left word just before their disappearance—gibberish or garbled words but it all boiled down to one thing: 'Return!'"
"Return?" Meng Qi asked again, still perplexed. "Who among them have returned?"
"Does 'return' point to the Realm of the Immortals? Or is it the true realm and not any Shards of Cosmic Glow?"
"I only know of two: the Immortal Venerable Guangcheng of the Jade Virtual Palace and the Immortal Venerable Nanhua of the Tusita Palace," Duke Huan said. "I don't know of any others."
Meng Qi committed everything to memory and continued asking more questions. Duke Huan tried his utmost to provide answers but he was tightlipped on certain matters, much to Meng Qi's chagrin. In the end, their discussion concluded on the studies of the skills of the disciplines of the Heavenly Golden Scripture such as the Jade Virtual Divination.
The advice and instructions that Duke Huan gave helped him to traverse the bog of difficulties that had hindered his progress. From the exchange of insights, Meng Qi could clearly understand the profound mastery that Duke Huan had in the mystic arts.
Meng Qi noticed that his companions were close to wrapping up the arrangements for the disciples of Mohism. He turned to Duke Huan with another smile. "Uncle Master, I would like to ask your permission to allow the followers of the School of Mo to seek refuge in the State of Qi?"
But his ploy did not go unnoticed by Duke Huan. With a chuckle, he said, "I might be able to exert enough influence to quell the enmity that the other schools of thought may have with Mohism, but you will need to speak to the Prince of Qi yourselves to convince him. Ah... The State of Qi has long been marred by neglect and decadence. Some revolutionary reforms may just do it some good after all..."
The lasts sentence indicated implicit a.s.sent to Meng Qi's request.
Meng Qi thanked his Uncle Master and then rejoined his companions. He put on a stern expression and addressed the group of disciples before them.
"The pursuit of success in our endeavor is like mining for gold—an undertaking that demands perseverance and determination until we finally see our prize."
"Then again, the tides of power will not be easily turned. A bright future awaits us at the end of the road, despite how b.u.mpy and rough the road may be. Have faith and persevere, uphold your principles of compa.s.sion and moral philosophy, and remember to be humble and modest always."
"A scourge of corruption, degeneration, and decay have pushed the State of Qi into ruin and despair. It is up to us to spearhead changes and s.h.i.+fts for the good of all. Those of you who will come, kindly follow the lead of Brothers Bai Song and Zhao Bai. Those of you who wish to stay in the State of Chen, Brother w.a.n.g Qi will lead you."
Bai Song, Zhao Bai, and w.a.n.g Qi had reunited with Meng Qi and the others when the martial curfew of the city of Shangying was lifted.
"Understood, Master Juzi!" The disciples answered respectfully.
Bai Song hesitantly looked at Meng Qi. "But, Master Juzi, where would you go from here?"
"There is still another matter that demands our attention. We shall regroup with you in the State of Qi once we have settled it," Meng Qi said indifferently. Bai Song has the qualities to contend for the leaders.h.i.+p of the disciples despite lacking approval and respect from the rest of his brethren.
w.a.n.g Qi, on the other hand, was skillful in combat but was wanting in leaders.h.i.+p qualities to competently lead the disciples of the State of Chen. He was been elected as leader in name but the true scepter of leaders.h.i.+p was handed to Tian Kuo by Meng Qi and his companions.
Night came swiftly and the skies above were engulfed by darkness. Meng Qi morphed into a mouse and hid in the sleeves of Duke Huan. He stayed motionless in the shadowy folds that reminded him of being trapped in the chaotic void of s.p.a.ce although he was able to sense everything that was happening outside.
Duke Huan suddenly stopped walking. With a laugh, he called out to someone. "Pride and conceit were once traits that you held so close to your chest. What has befallen you that you now watch from the shadows like a common thief?"
"I would not dare show my humble self before your greatness, Duke Huan," a loud and majestic voice boomed. The stranger spoke with feigned modesty but yet he addressed Duke Huan as if they were equals.
Meng Qi projected his spiritual sense and found a tall man of wide girth standing before them. Dressed in rich, kingly robes and raiments, his skin blushed with the l.u.s.ter of gold. His gaze was stern, accentuated by his black beard and bushy brows.
Proud and erect, the stranger remained still, exuding an air of overwhelming superiority.
"As it turns out, it was through your intervention that Su Mo escaped..." said the stranger, King Zhuang of Chu.
As instructed by Duke Huan, Meng Qi searched with his spiritual senses for the item that hung from King Zhuang's waist.
It was a Ruyi Scepter that was glowing with different hues of purple, white, gold, and yellow. The magnificent scepter emanated an aura that can calm the turbulent hearts of men, defy the rules of Mortality, and maybe even suppress the pa.s.sing of Time itself!
But the aura of the scepter was weak and thin; it could not possibly be the fabled Ruyi Scepter from the legends of old.
Most surprisingly, the aura of the Ruyi Scepter seemed oddly familiar to Meng Qi. There was a faint but inexplicable sensation of closeness as if he was sensing his own self; a bond shared with his physical self instead of the aura of the martial disciplines that he embodied.
"But no," Meng Qi felt suddenly, "it is still a little different from my aura!"
Just when Meng Qi was still caught between doubt and confusion, Duke Huan and King Zhuang concluded their brief spat and took their leave.
Duke Huan traveled a bit further before releasing Meng Qi from his sleeves and inquiring about what he had found out.
Meng Qi frankly revealed his findings. At length, he said, "Even I don't know anything about its origins."
Duke Huan walked around in circles with his hands behind his back, deep in thought for a few moments. He eventually muttered. "There are still mysteries unexplained; that much we can be certain of."
Suddenly, Meng Qi received notice from the Dominator that their time was up. They understood that extending their stay could cause the buildup of significant gaps in the difference of Time. Not wanting to expend more time traveling to the State of Qi, they sent off Duke Huan with parting words of thanks before they each forfeited two thousand five hundred Karma Points in order to return!
"I will be back!" Meng Qi looked far into the distance in the direction of the State of Chen, pledging to himself with conviction.
The Sage Who Transcended Samsara 604 The Tale Of The Jade Virtual Palace
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