“Phagpa?” Qin Ye exclaimed in horror.
“You’ve actually heard of him?” The Harken quipped back, obviously casting aspersions as to Qin Ye’s intelligence.
Then, for the next few moments, the Harken stared at Qin Ye as Qin Ye recited the synopsis of a wuxia novel he read. Meanwhile, Qin Ye nodded vigorously as he spoke, almost as though he was confirming that there was nothing wrong with his recollection.
After a dozen seconds or so, the Harken turned back with a soft sigh and lamented to himself, “I was a fool to have been so hopeful like that. That said, it’s quite something else to have recited the synopsis of master Huang Yi’s debut work with such absolute clarity and succinctness…”
“Well… I am a hundred years old, you know. I can’t afford to let others say that the King Yanluo of Hell is a complete doofus, can I?”
Fortunately, Qin Ye clammed up sensibly as soon as the Harken gave him yet another one of its trademark shut-the-hell-up glares. Then, the Harken drew a deep breath, repressed the deep murderous intent in its heart and explained, “Phagpa’s name is originally Drogon Chogyal, the first Imperial Preceptor of the Yuan Dynasty. He died in the 17th year of the Yuan Dynasty, at the Lhakhang palace in Sakya at the tender age of 45. During the time that he was alive, he was often known to be the authority in the nation. It was for this reason that he was given the posthumous nickname, ‘Authority of All, Subject to One’. During his reign, there was in fact one recorded incident of a major religious conflict.”
“And that was none other than the Great Debate between Taoism and Buddhism.”
The two slowed down and walked slowly as the Harken continued with his explanations, “The Great Debate of the Yuan Dynasty was one of the most well-known sessions in the history of Cathay, and the reason for this is that this was when Quanzhen Taoism reached the heights of its influence across the entire nation. That was incidentally also when Qiu Chuji, the Seven True Taoists of Xixia, was first received by Genghis Khan. That said, it wasn’t until 30 years later that the Mongol Empire first came to be.”
“Nothing is eternal, much less the human heart.” The Harken remarked with great emotion.” During this period of time, the Mongol Empire’s Iron Stupa rode across the lands, conquering every land in which Buddhism was rife. But in so doing, the Mongol Empire slowly but surely began to be influenced by the teachings of Buddhism. Their mindset slowly began to change. Riding on this, Chan Buddhism, a practice that once took a backseat as a result of Taoism’s widespread influence, began to regain vitality once more. Then, spurred on by the emergence of Tantra, the underlying religious tensions culminated in the very first Great Debate.”
The Harken glanced back, “And the trigger for this lay in the fact that the great monk behind took Qiu Chuji to the imperial court. Both factions were represented by their own elites, and Buddhism came out on top. At that time, the head of the Taoist faction, and also the one who secretly strung things along until the Great Debate occurred, was none other than the Imperial Preceptor, Phagpa. Incidentally, it also happened that he was the holy son of Tantric Buddhism.”
The Harken’s voice continued to echo in the passageway, “His faith was not, strictly speaking, of Chan Buddhism. However, back then, Tantric Buddhism was even less established, and it was impossible for them to compete with Taoism. Thus, he rode on the established teachings of Chan Buddhism as a springboard to make Buddhism the new state religion. Then, over the next few decades, through the power of subtle influence and suggestion, Tantric Buddhism eventually became the state religion from the middle to the latter parts of the Yuan Dynasty.”
Qin Ye mulled over the Harken’s explanations, “So, that would explain why there are reliefs of Tengrism on the floor and Buddhist scriptures hanging over us. But, even then, how can you be sure that it’s none other than Phagpa buried here in this place?”
The Harken responded, “Because the sculptures thus far have all been recreating the greatest feats of his life, which is how he single handedly brought the Great Debate to be. Their presence here is a celebration of his life.”
Qin Ye nodded and grew taciturn.
But something doesn’t quite add up…
He got the niggling feeling that something was still amiss, but he simply couldn’t put a finger on it.
With that, the duo continued to fly straight through the passage for the next 20 minutes, until a third milestone statue was seen ahead of them. Just then, Qin Ye suddenly came to a halt, “Something’s still not right.”
“If you ask me, there’s only two possibilities right now. The first possibility is that Phagpa isn’t the only one buried in this place; and the second possibility is that this isn’t his tomb to begin with!”
The Harken turned to Qin Ye in consternation, “Why do you say that?”
Qin Ye walked slowly to the side of the passageway and stroked the relief murals that still depicted an image of the Mongol Empire’s Iron Stupa overrunning their enemies, “If this was indeed Phagpa’s tomb, we wouldn’t be seeing these reliefs at all.”
“Instead, it would be full of sutras, chants and various acts of preaching, and not war.”
Then, he pointed to the etchings on the ground, “Furthermore, we wouldn’t even see any allusions to Tengrism, which is the faith of the Mongol Empire, and not something that Phagpa, a resident of Bod, would have access to!”
“Sure, you might argue that his beliefs might have changed after he entered the political center of the Yuan Dynasty, but I would hesitate to think that. After all, we’re talking about a person who was able to act as a leader in the Great Debate. His faith was obviously unassailable and indestructible. How could he have possibly changed his faith to that of Tengrism after having interacted only with the political leaders of the Mongol Empire?”
“And for one of the holy sons of Tantric Buddhism to have traces of other faiths in his tombs is a complete aberration to everything he’s lived for! The only possibility that this could be possible is that the person constructing this tomb is a complete idiot.”
The Harken frowned, “So, you’re saying that--...”
“There has to be another high-ranking individual of the Yuan Dynasty buried in this place. Furthermore, the entire tomb is designed to celebrate his life.” Qin Ye placed his hand behind his back and slowly began to pace around the passageway, “Firstly, the only thing that connects this tomb to Tantric Buddhism lies in the scriptures that appear overhead. Apart from that, there’s nothing else! Sure, you can say that the Great Debate is also linked to that, but it’s not expressed in any of the elements contained here in this tomb. Rather, what we see instead is a depiction of the great monk of Buddhism and Qiu Chuji here.”
“Besides, take a look at the murals on the walls and the carvings on the ground. There’s little to none that points us towards Tantric Buddhism. Rather, we get a clearer sensing of an inclination to Tengrism instead. So…”
Qin Ye took a deep breath, and then gazed deep into the passageway, “The person buried here… must be an existence that is even more important than that of Phagpa! Phagpa’s presence here is more akin to that of a gatekeeper or a caretaker.”
Someone higher than the Imperial Preceptor of a nation…
Nobody said a word for a long time. Then, finally, the Harken sighed softly and exclaimed with some measure of disbelief, “Then… that truly leaves us with only Genghis Khan…”
Qin Ye furrowed his brows. He, too, was filled with disbelief at the conclusion that his deductions had led them to, “Why couldn’t it be Mongke Khan? Didn’t the Great Debate also occur during his time?”
“That’s impossible.” The Harken shook its head, “We’ve got Yin spirits of the Yuan Dynasty back in the old Hell. They were the ones who helped us understand that the Yuan Dynasty had treated the office of Imperial Preceptor as one of great importance. Do you recall Phagpa’s posthumous name? ‘Authority of All, Subject to One’. Who do you think this ‘One’ refers to? It’s none other than Mongke Khan, grandson of the Great Khan. He wouldn’t have an Imperial Preceptor ”
Qin Ye immediately continued, “Mongke… enjoys such a high status in the Yuan Dynasty? Then, what about Kublai Khan? He’s the founding emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, isn’t he? Shouldn’t his status be sufficient to justify having Phagpa as a gatekeeper?”
“Impossible, because Mongke was Kublai’s brother. Back then, the Yuan Dynasty hadn’t even been founded just yet. They were both warriors of the Mongol Empire, but Mongke was preferred as the fourth khagan emperor of the Mongol Empire. Besides, Phagpa was Mongke’s teacher. If it were Mongke or Kublai who was buried here in this place, Phagpa would definitely be honored as their teacher. Therefore, the person buried here would quite likely be one who was even higher than Mongke in stature. In all likelihood, it would be Temujin himself.”
After a day of twists and turns, they’d come full circle right back to the conclusion that this was in all likelihood Temujin’s Tomb.
“Let’s keep going…” Qin Ye tutted once, and then flew forward once more with a gust of wind, “I mean, we must already be close to the borders of Cathay by now, aren’t we? Who would’ve thought that this passageway is so immensely long?”
This tomb hid far too many mysteries. Eager to uncover the truth of the tomb, the duo charged full speed along the passageway without another word.
The speed of an Abyssal Prefect was incredibly quick. Naturally, it wasn’t long before they saw a golden curtain of light appear right before their eyes.
Array of the Nine Gods!
So long as they crossed the curtain of light, they would be right back where they started, back in the lands of Cathay! The tunnel might have been flat, but there were twists, turns and kinks that meddled with their bearings. Thus, neither Qin Ye nor the Harken knew exactly which part of the border they were located at right now. That said, they were both astounded to find that the tomb actually ran straight from Zhenhai City through to Cathay itself!
“That’s unbelievable…” Qin Ye placed his hand on the golden curtain of light. Fortunately, as a man whose existence straddled both the mortal realm and the netherworld, he wasn’t bothered by the barrier at all. Thus, holding the Harken in one hand, he walked straight through the barrier.
That said, the first thing he was greeted by was yet another stretch of a seemingly endless passageway.
“Bloody hell…” Qin Ye sighed softly. Then, resigned to his fate, he held the Harken in one hand and continued to charge forward.
Time passed by quickly. After approximately another hour of flying at top speed, the passageway finally opened up into a massive cavern.
It was a huge cavern carved entirely out of obsidian. The first thing that caught their eye was the huge bronze door standing in front of them.
It was 10 meters high and 15 meters wide, and it was carved with various exquisite reliefs of Tengrism.
“A bronze door…” Qin Ye walked up to the front and placed his hand on the door. He could see that there was a delicate keyhole located at his eye level.
He immediately picked up the Harken and placed it right in front of the keyhole, “Come, help me see how I should get this thing open.”
Why does it feel as though your respectable persona has completely collapsed as soon as you’ve managed to extricate yourself from a difficult situation… The Harken suppressed the desire to give Qin Ye a piece of its mind as it squinted straight into the keyhole. A split second later, the Harken gasped.
“Is this…” It sniffed in the air with some measure of surprise, “Is this… the Yin energy signature of a Sixfold Ghost King?”
The Harken sniffed for some time, and then shook its head, “I can’t tell. There’s too many other scents inside. Besides, the door is enchanted by one of the forbidden techniques of the Sixfold Ghost Kings. If you enter by force, or using any other unauthorized means, the contents within the room would immediately be destroyed. No, in fact, the entire chamber here would collapse, and we’d all be buried right here in this place.”
“Then how do I get in?”
“We’ll need an origin Yin artifact of one of the Sixfold Ghost Kings…” The Harken frowned, and then immediately looked up. At the same time, Qin Ye turned to the Harken, and both exclaimed at the same time, “The Courage of Dragons Silver Spear!”
It was a good thing they had this artifact in their possession!
“It’s a good thing I carry it around with me…” The Harken sighed with relief and spat out a silver speartip. Meanwhile, Qin Ye stared at the Harken in horror, “Hang on…”
“Why the hell do you carry the belongings of other Yama-Kings around with you?”
“Is it not all because of you?!” The Harken barked back with great indignation, “Do you even have a modicum of self-awareness, you weakass Abyssal Prefect? Do you like parading around Yama-Kings all day long while riding on the coattails of the old Hell? Is that your idea of fun? Don’t you know that I’m still suffering from grievous wounds and still sorely lacking in battle power?! How could I dare to even go out on a traipse with you if I didn’t have some means of self-preservation up my sleeves?!”
Bloody hell… I get it now…
You’re just a coward…
Fortunately, Qin Ye knew when enough was enough. Thus, he picked up the silver spear tip and inserted it into the keyhole.
It was peculiar. The speartip was clearly rusty and old, yet it triggered the mechanism within with a clear, crisp click. Then, the lock blossomed with rays of golden light that slowly coursed through the door and spread along the reliefs of Tengrism on the door. Then, the mechanism slowly began to clatter into motion, and finally… the gate slowly started to open up!
Kkkkkrrrrr… The low drone of the mechanism continued to rumble in the ground as the massive door opened up. At once, the duo peered into the chamber behind, only to realize that just about 50 meters away… was yet another large door!
This time, the keyhole of this door was etched with a diagram.
The diagram was far smaller than the reliefs of Tengrism on the previous door, but it was something that Qin Ye had seen before!
It was a lotus flower.
A bird’s eye view of a blooming lotus flower, to be more precise.
It exuded the flair of Buddhism, with its six petals all evenly distributed in the etching. Furthermore, the heart of the lotus glowed with countless runic symbols of Yin Talismans.Previous Chapter Next Chapter