Chapter 1: Trickery
Translator: Christina Editor: Rundi
Such good weather… When Meng Qi opened his eyes, he was amazed by the view in front of him. The cloudless blue sky made him feel completely refreshed and relaxed as if he had just woken up from a beautiful dream.
As he was quietly admiring the view in his mind, somebody fiercely shook his body. An anxious voice followed right after, “Young master, you are finally awake!”
“Young master?” Meng Qi turned around and saw an extremely nervous middle-aged man standing behind him. The man had a horse-shaped face that would be hard for anyone to forget, and five wisps of hair on his chin that resembled those of a goat’s. However, what was more eye-catching was the turban cap and the super large clothes that he was wearing.
“Wait, what’s happening?”
“Young Master, are you feeling okay?” the man started to touch Meng Qi’s body from head to toe. Meng Qi was scared to death because he thought he was being sexually harassed. So he hastily sat up and tried to move back. However, the man’s powerful hands were like iron clamps, and he couldn’t even move a centimeter. At the same time, he felt something warm flowing inside his body, which cured every bit of uncomfortableness that he had just been experiencing. The warmth that spread through his body felt like bathing in a hot spring.
Seeing that Meng Qi stood up, the man nodded. “You must be fine now.”
Yet after arbitrarily making such a conclusion, he was still worried so he asked again, “Young Master, do you feel unwell anywhere else?”
Meng Qi had no idea what was happening. He answered in confusion, “No.”
The horse-faced man immediately became relieved. His face broke into a smile that was uglier than a crying face. He then said, “Young master, the duke had no choice. Think about it, whatever happens, it would be better to stay in the temple than at home. Although life here might be lonely and you will be separated from the rest of the world, Shaolin is one of the greatest sects of Kungfu! Perhaps you will even get the chance to become a golden-bodied Luohan. Your reputation will overwhelm the whole world, and you will be freed from all worldly sufferings through nirvana. Besides, you have an inborn connection to Buddhism. Remember that no-name monk who gave you a jade pendant?…”
As he spoke, he seemed to feel that what he had said was too unrealistic. He felt somewhat embarrassed, and his voice became quieter and quieter. Eventually, he mumbled a bit and decided to change his method of persuasion, “Well, maybe a golden body is too difficult to attain. But you know, there are 72 kinds of ultimate arts under Shaolin Kungfu, and all of them are like superpowers. If you can learn a few of them, when you enter the Jianghu in the future, you will become undefeatable. How awesome would that be?”
Again, as he spoke, his voice became smaller and smaller, almost to the level of a mosquito’s humming. Eventually, he decided to give up and covered his face with his left hand. Then he turned around and left, vanishing like smoke, leaving only a long sigh.
Watching this horse-faced man quickly disappear into the mountain woods, Meng Qi felt even more confused by the chatters that he had just heard. At that moment he only wanted to ask one question.
“Who the hell are you?”
The whole situation was just ridiculous!
Meng Qi realized that the place he was in was not only unknown, it was also peculiar.
“It was like ancient China!”
“All I did was watching the World Cup last night, how could this have happened to me? Did I time-travel while I was sleeping?”
Meng Qi did not suspect this to be a prank or that he was in the movie studio of some Chinese historical drama. This was because when the horse-faced man left, not only did he walk away as if a vicious monster was chasing after him, but he walked away as fast as a frightened horse. And that was definitely not something a normal human being could do!
“He must be a Kungfu master!” Meng Qi concluded by recalling the novels and TV dramas that he had read and watched.
“Namo Amitābha, please follow me into the temple.” Meng Qi was just about to dive further into his imagination when a low-pitched voice arose behind him. The voice startled him so much that he nearly screamed.
“Since when was this person standing behind me?”
“And why did I not notice him at all?”
Meng Qi almost strained his neck as he turned around to see who was behind him. What he saw was a monk dressed in a yellowish-brown robe. The monk was very tall but as thin as a bamboo and had an ordinary face that wasn’t special at all. However, his eyes were full of dispiritedness, which made his age difficult to guess. He could be around 40 or 50, although Meng Qi was pretty sure the monk was at least in his 30s.
Seeing that Meng Qi had noticed him, the monk did not speak another word but instead signaled Meng Qi with his eyes to follow him. He turned around and walked towards the main entrance of the temple.
What made Meng Qi astonished was that above the main entrance there was a gilded horizontal board, and on the board, three large characters were written:
“It was really Shaolin Temple!”
Since it was his first time in such an unfamiliar and strange place, Meng Qi was afraid to ask any questions. So, he contained his astonishment and confusion and merely followed the monk, walking as fast as he could.
It was not until now did Meng Qi notice that both his arms and legs were short. He carefully examined his body and thought, “What a special experience of rejuvenation…” He really didn’t know if he should be happy or sad about it.
From the size of his palm, the whiteness of his skin, and the jade pendant that he was wearing around his waist, he estimated that his new body was younger than 14. He also knew it was a body that had long lived in affluence.
“I wonder how I look… Only the good-looking ones can enjoy life…”
“Enjoy life? Nah… In Shaolin Temple, I would be forced to devote myself to Buddhism and stay away from secular wants and desires!”
“Well, was it possible for me to refuse to join Shaolin? For of course, this weak body would not be able to live long if I decided to leave Shaolin. This was a world with Kungfu, and I don’t know if there were also ghosts and monsters wandering around… Sigh! Not to mention that in many ancient records, many people from rich and large families liked to keep catamites…”
“According to that horse-faced man, even if this Shaolin was different from the Shaolin that I know, it was still one of the largest sects of martial arts and had 72 kinds of ultimate arts. I wonder if this Shaolin also had Sinew-changing Scripture]…”
“In the past, I used to imagine myself as a Kungfu master who went on exciting adventures in Jianghu. Now that dream might actually come true, why don’t I feel happy about it? Maybe it’s because I don’t have my computer, my phone, the internet, or… my family…”
“But maybe it’s nice to learn some Kungfu. Umm, but what is a golden-bodied Luohan?”
Although Meng Qi seemed to be very calm as he followed the monk and as he walked past the numerous other grey-robed monks and yellow-robed monks, nobody knew that inside his brain it was actually a complete mess and he couldn’t stop wondering about all sorts of different things.
Nevertheless, regardless of how much he had pondered, Meng Qi eventually had to accept reality. With his current body and age, and without a home that he could go back to, he had to stay at Shaolin Temple and study Kungfu obediently.
“I wonder if I could still resume the secular life after I have learned Shaolin Kungfu? I can live without alcohol, but I definitely can’t live without meat!”
Meng Qi noticed that he might be thinking too ahead of himself.
On the way, the monk that led Meng Qi didn’t go through the great hall that enshrined the figure of Buddha. Instead, he circumvented through the sides. After they had walked past several courtyards, for the first time, the monk opened a door of the great hall.
His eyes followed the movement of the door, and Meng Qi saw a few dozen children who all appeared to be under the age of 15. The youngest among them was probably only eight or nine years old. All of them sat cross-legged on thin cushions and focused their eyes on a wide-faced monk sitting in the top seat. The monk looked very serious, had really big ears, wore a similar yellow robe to the monk that led him here, and held a discipline ruler in his hands.
“Namo Amitābha. Brother Xuan Zang, what is the matter?” the wide-faced monk said in a very deep voice.
Eek, with this voice, he could sing the bel canto. The more nervous Meng Qi was, the more unrelated thoughts crossed his mind. From what the wide-faced monk said, he now knew that the “bamboo-like” monk who led him here had a Dharma name “Xuan Zang”.
Xuan Zang chanted the name of Buddha and then said, “Brother Xuan Ku, this is the child that I have mentioned before.”
He was frank and open and didn’t sound like he wanted to hide anything. However, his voice was dry and unpleasant to hear, and it was completely different from that of Xuan Ku’s.
Xuan Ku gave Meng Qi a glance. There was no smile on his face, and then he responded, “We will do it in sequence.”
Meng Qi looked at him with confusion. Xuan Zang, who was standing beside Meng Qi, pointed at a spare cushion and told him, “Wait for the inquiry.”
“Ok.” Now Meng Qi understood what was happening. As someone who had entered the workforce years ago, he was used to interviews. So he agilely copied the posture of the other children and sat cross-legged on the cushion.
Xuan Ku didn’t give Meng Qi another look and started to ask one of the children, with the discipline ruler in his hand, “What is your secular name? Why do you want to join Shaolin?”
The child was about ten years old. He was good-looking but also looked kind of dumb. He answered, “My name is Fang Aqi. I didn’t have anything to eat, so I was sold to a monk.”
Several other children started laughing. They were mainly older, and they laughed because Fang Aqi’s response was as offensive as name-calling monks bald donkeys! Maybe there were some issues with his brain.
Xuan Ku frowned, and said somewhat unhappily, “From now on, stop using your secular name. Your Buddhist name will be ‘Zhen Hui’, and you will be a member of the Chores Yard.”
Meng Qi heard some gasps among the older children. Their reaction told Meng Qi that the Chores Yard must be a really bad department to join.
“Fang Aqi is Zhen Hui, Zhen Hui is Fang Aqi…” Fang Aqi, whose name was now “Zhen Hui”, kept reciting.
Xuan Ku moved his eyes and looked at one of the older children. “What is your secular name? Why do you want to join Shaolin?”
This child seemed to be around 13 or 14 years old. He looked a little bit nervous but still answered fluently, “Yes, Great Master. My name is Liu Mingzhi. My family is fond of the teachings of Buddhism and adored Shaolin Kungfu. For this reason, I am sent to Shaolin.”
These were all children that passed the initial examinations, and they all had potential.
Xuan Ku nodded slightly. “You have passable honesty. If you said that you were only interested in Buddhist teachings, I would have sent you to the Chores Yard as well. From now on your Dharma name will be “Zhen De”, and you will become a member of the Warrior-monk Yard.”
“Thank you, Uncle Xuan Ku,” Zhen De replied while put his palms together devoutly.
According to his knowledge on receiving a Buddhist name, following the order of “Empty in Heart, Wisdom in Mind”, he could start calling Xuan Ku “Uncle” before he had even been assigned to an official master.
Xuan Ku nodded at his cunningness and ignored him while beginning to inquire the other children.
Zhan De felt the tension building up in his heart. It seemed like Uncle Xuan Ku was exactly like what the rumor has said. He was a just and righteous person who disliked flattery.
On the other hand, Meng Qi was watching the inquiries in a relaxed mood and thought that they were kind of fun. Suddenly, however, he froze.
“What was my name?”
“What was this body’s name?”
Meng Qi anxiously tried to dig into his memory, but he just couldn’t recall the name of the body. He had inherited absolutely no memory from the original owner!
“I can’t just say Meng Qi. Xuan Zang is still watching, and he knows me.”
“I have to think of a way to get through this!”
Standing in front of Xuan Ku, who seemed extremely strict and serious, Meng Qi was afraid of saying anything unnecessary. He was too afraid to ask questions or to pretend that he had lost his memory, so he had to quietly think about another way that would not expose his actual identity as a time-traveler.
“What’s your secular name? Why do you want to join Shaolin?” Before Meng Qi could think of something feasible, Xuan Ku was already standing in front of him with his discipline ruler.
Meng Qi opened his mouth and suddenly had an idea. He spoke without hesitation, “Since I am joining Shaolin, I have already forgotten my secular name.”
Xuan Ku observed Meng Qi carefully, slightly shaking his discipline ruler. He didn’t ask for an answer to the latter question, but instead said in a strict tone,
“Too much trickery. Chores Yard. Dharma name ‘Zhen Ding’.”