Li Yundong stopped short when he was crossing the threshold into the lecture hall. Some kind of resistance was preventing him from taking another step forward—unless he wished to bring utter ruination on his poor backpack.
He glanced up and instantly realized the source of his problem: the rivet of the Fan of Seven Treasures was pushing against the outer part of the door frame.
Li Yundong sighed and crouched down a little to allow the Fan of Seven Treasures to clear the frame entirely. Last night, Zi Yuan had suddenly shown up in his apartment and told him to keep the Fan of Seven Treasures beside him at all times. And when she said at all times, she meant in the most literal sense: the Fan of Seven Treasures had to be beside him even when he was, say, taking a dump.
Apparently, doing so would allow the fan to slowly get used to his Qi, which, in turn, would increase his chances of passing the early dans of the Shentong phase.
He saw it as some sort bonding session.
When Zi Yuan told him to bring the fan to class, he agreed almost immediately, but not for the reason Zi Yuan had told him. His reason had more to do with security than the need to pass the Shentong phase quickly. It would be pretty dumb to leave the fan out of his sight after he nearly got robbed at the Everest base camp.
Call him paranoid.
And speaking of paranoid…
He nearly freaked out earlier when he sensed someone trying to grab him from behind—he honestly thought someone was trying to steal the Fan of Seven Treasures again. But it was just some girl who wanted to ask him for help to move her bags.
Admittedly, he could've been friendlier to the girl. But he didn't want another Meiduo incident to happen, so he figured he should keep his distance from other women from now on.
Right now, his heart belonged to Su Chan and only Su Chan. There really was no more room for anyone else.
The lecture hall was empty when he strode in, which didn't surprise him at all since today was the orientation day for the first years—classes would officially begin tomorrow.
He'd only come to campus today to use the library resources and, admittedly, to see if he would run into Zhou Qin. He hadn't heard from Zhou Qin since the night He Shao died.
Although Zhou Qin told him that she would handle the police, he honestly wasn't so sure if things could be handled that easily. If Zhou Qin were holding all the cards, then yes, things would be settled. But the other side involved the He family whose wealth and influence rivalled that of her own family.
Li Yundong did try to think of alternative explanations for Zhou Qin's radio silence: maybe her father got angry and grounded her; maybe she just hated Li Yundong for bringing so much trouble to her doorsteps.
None of those explanations made him feel better.
Li Yundong left the lecture hall and went to the library. After registering for a library card at the counter, he headed towards the library's computer room.
Then, he sat down at one of the computers and did a search of the library's inventory. To his surprise, there were several hundred hits when he searched for the keyword "religion."
It seemed like Zi Yuan was right.
After spending a while narrowing down his search, Li Yundong decided to go with Diamond Sutra and Lotus Sutra first. He grabbed the two books from their respective shelves, then headed back towards the counter.
The librarian, an old man who looked to be in his early seventies, seemed a bit surprised at Li Yundong's choice of books. He raised the reading glasses—they were hanging around his neck—and slipped them on.
After that, he squinted at Li Yundong for a moment or two.
"Well, well, well. You don't see a lot of young people reading these books, that's for sure."
The librarian took the books and began to work on the bookkeeping stuff.
"Huh. Guess what? This is actually the first time that these books are taken out from this library."
Li Yundong acknowledged that comment with a smile.
"Say, young man…" said the librarian in a strange tone. "Do you think you can really understand these books?'
Li Yundong chuckled. "Guess we'll see about that, won't we?"
The old librarian chuckled. "Hey, you better not damage the books if you can't understand them." Then, he looked up sharply as though he'd sensed some kind of flaw in his words. "Oh, but of course you shouldn't ruin the book even if you can understand it..."
Li Yundong laughed. What a funny old man. "Don't worry, sir. I'll take good care of them. You have my word."
When Li Yundong got back to his apartment, he dove right into the Diamond Sutra. To his surprise, the book wasn't as elusive and unintelligible as he used to think. The early chapters were filled with fables and stories about Buddhism. The stories were, of course, comprehensible and interesting to read. Li Yundong got the impression that they were meant to impart a great deal of spiritual wisdom to their readers. The middle chapters focused on the conversations between Subhuti and Gautama Buddha. In these chapters, the format was rather similar to that of the Canon of the Yellow Thearch, in which important lessons were found in the form of a dialogue between the Yellow Emperor and Qibo.
The only difficulty Li Yundong ran into so far was the fact that the dialogues were all written in Classical Chinese. However, by constantly referring to the excerpts from the early chapters (the fables and stories), he quickly got the hang of it.
For the first time in his life, Li Yundong realized just how addicting reading can be. In the past, he would've fallen asleep before he even made it past the first page. But now, he was totally hooked.
Just like when he was going through the Mahamudra Tantra, he felt like there was something mysterious and mystical about the contents, like they held some sort of hidden secrets. Every line he read gave him new insights, which eventually led him to more questions. Then, to seek out the answers to those questions, he would read further.
It was addicting, this thirst and hunger for knowledge.
When Zi Yuan entered Apartment 20A, she was greeted by the sight of the Heir sitting cross-legged on the floor, completely absorbed in a book. A quick glance at the book cover made Zi Yuan smile. On the floor, beside his right knee, lay another book—the Lotus Sutra.
So he took my advice...
A noise made Zi Yuan turn around: Hongling was entering the apartment.
"Shh," Zi Yuan said, pressing a finger to her lips, then gave Hongling an eye signal.
Hongling froze on the spot, then looked past Zi Yuan's shoulder towards the living room. A second later, Hongling looked back towards Zi Yuan in surprise.
Zi Yuan moved quietly towards the door, and then pulled Hongling out of the apartment.
"Elder Sister Zi Yuan," Hongling said as they were heading towards the elevator. "Why is he reading Buddhist texts? He's a Cultivator. He should be studying Taoist texts."
Zi Yuan pondered Hongling's words for a moment. "Maybe he wants to acquire knowledge from both worlds." And he certainly had the aptitude to do so. Zi Yuan had seen him perform the tantric mudras, which were nothing short of impressive.
Hongling snickered. "A lot of people tried to do that, but how many have actually succeeded? Oh, let's see. First, there's Liu Huayang. Then there's Wu Shouyang. And that's it. The rest of them failed miserably. They wanted to learn more, but ended up getting sidetracked from their real training. In the end, they lost everything." Hongling snorted. "Is he planning to follow their footsteps?"
Zi Yuan pressed the elevator call button. She had to admit that Hongling made a good point: it's easy to get sidetracked when you're presented with too much information to absorb.
Besides, Buddhists and Cultivators haven't really gotten along ever since the end of the Han Dynasty—there had been a lot of major and minor clashes between both parties. The rift between Buddhists and Cultivators reached its culmination during the end of the Tang Dynasty, thanks to the various provocations of the Mystical Silver Fox. Today, it was extremely hard, if not impossible, for Buddhists and Taoists to co-exist in harmony. By mastering spells and techniques from both sides, the Heir would likely make enemies from both sides.
Or he might become the bridge that connects both worlds. A gateway towards harmonious co-existence.
Zi Yuan broke her silence after she and Hongling stepped into the elevator. "You shouldn't say that, Hongling."
Hongling snorted and leaned herself against the wall of the elevator. "But it's all true, isn't it? That's what history tells us."
"That's a rather pessimistic way to look at it," Zi Yuan said. "Even for a Cultivator, there's no harm in studying Buddhist texts. After all, the only way to improve our knowledge is to keep an open mind and absorb as much as we can."
Zi Yuan took Hongling's silence as a sign that she had the girl's full attention.
"Don't forget that there are similarities between Cultivation and Buddhism. So there's really no harm in learning both." Zi Yuan paused. "His journey to Tibet has not only allowed him to grow in strength, Hongling. It has expanded his mind as well." If only Hongling saw him perform the tantric mudras. "Besides, I'm the one who encouraged him to do more research. He's probably just following my advice."
"Fine," Hongling grumbled. "Let's just see how far he can get with his research."
Zi Yuan sighed quietly. How far indeed.
The old librarian didn't expect to see the young man—the one who'd borrowed the Diamond and Lotus Sutras this morning—to walk into the library for a second time today. He glanced at his watch and saw that it was only noon. Barely a couple of hours had passed since the young man walked away with those ancient texts.
Yet there he was, heading towards the counter with those same books in hand.
A wave of disappointment coursed through the old librarian.
Hah. I knew it. I knew that none of these youngsters will be able to grasp the contents of those texts.
The young man stopped at the counter and slid the books towards the librarian. "Good afternoon, sir. I'm here to return the books."
The old librarian sighed inwardly and pulled the books towards him. "Guess they're too difficult for you, huh?"
At least the books are in good condition...
"They're okay, I guess."
The librarian raised a brow and studied the young man from across the counter. Okay? What did that even mean? Is he just pretending to have understood the contents?
"Why are you looking at me like that, sir?" said the young man with a smile. "I finished both books. They're very enlightening."
The old man's eyes widened just a tad. A second later, he narrowed them again. Fine then. Let's see if you really understand what you've read.
"What's another term referring to form, sound, scent, taste, touch, and dharma?"
"The Six Dusts, of course," said the young man.
The librarian did a double take.
The young man laughed. "I can tell you their other names too. Six External Bases... Six Gunas... Sadayatana..." The young man smirked. "Need I go on?"
The librarian cleared his throat harshly. "What are the Six Roots of Perceptions?"
The young man smiled. "The Six Roots of Perceptions include to the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. They're also known as the six internal bases!"
The old man opened his mouth to speak, but the young man kept going and recited the whole passage from the Diamond Sutra about the relationship between the Six Dusts, the Six Roots of Perceptions, the Eighteen Elements, the Five Components, and also the Four Noble Truths.
By the time he was done, the old librarian had to pinch himself to make sure that he wasn't seeing things.
"Y- You actually finished the books? For real?"
In just a few hours, no less!
The young man laughed. "Yes, I did. I told you, didn't I?"
The old man quickly gathered his thoughts. Alright... Let's see if you can answer this one.
"What did Buddha mean when he told Subhuti that a single thought can give rise to a pure believer?"
"Buddha is reminding Subhuti to never underestimate a young and inexperienced scholar."
The old librarian opened his mouth, then closed it again. "What does the phrase takes delight in Aranya mean?"
"To enjoy being free from temptation and distress, to delight in the calm and the quiet."
The old librarian shook his head in awe. "Holy cow! You're good!" He picked up the Diamond Sutra and flipped through it from cover to cover. "You really did finish it..."
The young man just laughed. "Come on. Why would I lie?"
The old man tossed the copy of Diamond Sutra onto the counter and picked up the Lotus Sutra instead. "What about this one? You finished this too?"
"Yep." The young man smiled. "Why, you wanna test me again? Bring it on, then."
The old man laughed and placed the Lotus Sutra on top the Diamond Sutra. "Nah. Forget it. I believe you now." The old man stopped laughing and gave the young man an earnest look. "Forgive me for doubting you. I just couldn't believe that a youngster like you would bother with these ancient texts, that's all."
"Nah. It's totally fine, sir. There's nothing to forgive." The young man smiled. "It was pretty fun though."
The old man smiled. "It did bring back old memories. Reminded me of the time when I was still a teacher."
The young man leaned his elbow against the counter. "Um, sir. Actually I'm here to borrow two more books," he said. "Not sure if you have them here."
"Oh, yeah?" The old librarian put on his reading glasses. "Which books?"
"Well, I was thinking the Surangama Sutra and the Records of the Pure Heart," said the young man.
"Classical texts again?"
"Yeah. Do you have them?"
"Of course. Wait here. I'll go grab them for you."
Ten minutes later, the old librarian returned to the counter with both books and handed them to the young man.
"Thanks, sir. Have a good day."
After the man left, the librarian pulled out his phone and dialed a number.
"Hey, Xiao Hua. I ran into a brilliant scholar today. Mm-hmm. Could totally give you a run for your money, I'm telling you. Psh! He can even understand Buddhist texts! What? You think he's an old man? That's where you're wrong. He's about the same age as you. Oh, and he's a student at your university... Hah! You know you shouldn't be so full of yourself just because you're the top student in the city. Coz lemme tell you something right now. There's a new sheriff in town!"