THE DISCIPLE OF LíALCHEMIST

Translated and adapted from Contes de la dynastic des Tangs, 
Langues etrangeres, Pekin 1962

By Sramanera Kuo Di

Continued from issue #97

Tou silently followed the old man. They walked for about seven or eight miles and arrived in front of an impressive mansion which had a supernatural aura. There were rainbow colored clouds flying above him and phoenixes and storks fluttering in a very magical way. In the main hall, there was an alchemist's furnace about nine feet tall and violet flames were escaping from the top sending reflections from the windows. Nine jade virgins were standing around the furnace, and on the left was a dragon and on the right a white tiger.

It was about sunset. After changing his clothes the old man appeared as a Taoist priest with a yellow hat and red pap. He gave the novice three white rock-like pills and a flask of wine and told him to swallow them immediately. Leading the novice, to sit on a tiger skin facing west, the old man in a very serious, voice told him, "You can become an immortal if and only if from now on you cap bear everything and not utter a single word, whether you see gods, demons, vampires, fierce beasts, ghosts in the hells, chained and; painfully tortured parents. All is illusion. You should not move or speak. Be tranquil and firm, in all circumstances don't ever forget what I have just told you." After his-words, the old man slowly walked out of the hall.

As soon as the priest left, thousands of chariots and cavalries appeared with flags and spears. They covered the mountains and valleys on all sides and approached him; the demons shook heaven and earth. In the front was the leader, more than 10 feet tall, riding on a white horse. Both wore armor of splendid golden color. The giant came right into the hall.

      "Who are you?" he cried, yelling in a voice like thunder. "How dare you come here intending to control me!"

All of his, retinues then arrived, pointing their arms toward the cultivator, and all at the same time with a threatening voice asked his name and the reason for his presence. The cultivator didn't say a word. Enraged by his silence, they all screamed, "Attack: Pierce his body: Cut off his, head: "When the cultivator didn't respond, they retreated in a fury.

Suddenly, there appeared from nowhere, timers, dragons, lions, vipers, and vampires, numbering to the thousands, roaring, rattling, moving towards the cultivator, looking for somebody to devour, or a person from whose neck they could feast. The cultivator remained imperturbed and everything vanished by itself.

Unexpectedly, a big torrent Of rain came down, with numerous thunderbolts tearing through the dark sky, flaming wheels revolving on the right and on the left, lightning flashing up in the front and in the back, to the point that he couldn't open his eyes. The hall was then submerged under more than 10 feet of water and the whole mass, with the speed of thunderbolts and lightning, flowed irresistibly like an erupted volcano, or a swollen rivet, and in a wink of an eye everything was about to crush him to bits. The man was still in sitting position, unmoving, and the frightening situation dissolved.

Now the giant came back with a buffalo-headed jailer and a number of horrible ghosts from the hells. They put a boiler in front of Tou and be found himself surrounded by picks, cutlasses, and forks.

"If he says his name, he will be tree," ordered the leader, "If not, you can pierce your forks into his heart and plunge him into the boiler."

As before, Tou made no response. Then they brought his wife and threw her down at his side. "Say your name and she will be released immediately," said the giant.

But as before, no response. They began to beat his wife until she bled. They pierced her body, sliced her flesh, and burned her on hot charcoal. In extreme suffering, she begged him, crying: "Even though I'm your simple-and unworthy wife, I have served you for along time. Now Iím held by these demons and condemned to suffer these unbearable sufferings. I donít ask you to kneel down for me to ask for-their grace, but just one word from you will save my life. All beings have a heart; can you refuse to say a word?"

In the hall, all were bathed with tears and the wife kept accusing and damning her husband. Tou didn't pay any attention.

"Don't you believe that I dare kill her?" asked the leader. Then he ordered tire demons to bring a huge cutter and cut the wifeís feet off inch by inch. The poor lady cried louder than ever but Tou was unmoved.

"This bandit is an accomplished sorcerer, he should not be alive," said the leader, and ordered the guards to exit Tou's head off.

Tou's spirit went to the king of the hells. "Are you the sorcerer from Horse Mountain? asked King Yama. "Treat him as normal." he ordered the ghost.

Then according to his karma, Tou underwent all kinds of tortures. Then poured liquefied copper Into his throat, made him eat iron bars, crushed him with pillars, ground him up in a mill, threw him into a flaming hole, boiled him up in a boiler, forced him to climb a mountain of knives and to go across a forest of swords. But always mindful of the priest's instruction, Tou had the courage to bear all the sufferings without a sigh.

Finally the jailer came to announce that his sufferings in the hells had ended. The king opened a book and after awhile said, "This man was a scoundrel; he has to be reborn in a female body in the family of Sub-prefect Wang Kin in the district of Chanfu of Song Ariou."

At his rebirth, Tou then had a female body. In her youth, she was always sick; she had to take kinds of medicine and she had fallen from bed many times, or had been burned from the pot. In spite of the pain, she never opened her mouth. Growing up she became a very beautiful girl, but she never spoke. Her family considered her to be mute at birth and so there were times when she was insulted or humiliated by relatives, but she never replied.

A scholar in the area, named beauty, asked to marry her. At first her family refused because of the muteness of the young lady.

"As long as she is a good spouse there will be no need to talk," said Lou. "She will give a an excellent lesson to those who have too long a tongue."

Then the family agreed to accept his offer. For many years they loved each other very much. They had a son, and this child at two years old had an extraordinarily developed intelligence.

One day Lou Kuei, holding the baby in his arms, talked to his wife. But, she held her silence. He tried all kinds of tricks to make her speak, but never obtained a response.

Suddenly, in a fit of anger, he cried out: "Once, the minister Kia had a wife who refused to smile at him, but during a hunt he revealed his excellent archery and she regretted that she bad misunderstood. Now you must talk to me. What good is it to keep this child if the husband is held in contempt by his wife?"

Right then, he held the child by the leg and hit the boy's head against the wall. In one strike the little head was broken into pieces and the blood gushed several feet. Tou, at that time because of maternal love, forgot the promise and let out a horrible cry. "Aaah!"

His cry on his lips, Tou found himself sitting at the same place with the priest standing in front of him. It was dawn. The purple flames, which escaped from the furnace, rose up into the sky and soon the house was covered with fire and reduced to ashes.

"How stupid you are! My work is destroyed!" cried the priest. Saying this, the priest took Tou by his hair and dunked his head in a pitcher of water. The fire was suddenly extinguished.

"Joy, anger, pain, terror, hatred, and desire your mind had mastered itself." Said the priest. "It is just love that you couldnít overcome. If you hadnít let out that cry, you would be an immortal now. How hard it is to find a man...! Yet, my elixir can be made again, but you will fall back into the worldly life---Bye now! Good luck!" Then he showed Tou the way back.

Tou wanted to go back into the main hall to take another look. There he found the furnace was demolished. Inside it there was an iron pillar, big like an arm and a few feet long. The priest had taken off his overcoat and was carving the iron pillar with a knife.

Back in the world, Tou, remorseful, shamed by the thought of having disappointed the old man, vowed to do better and make recompense for his mistake. But when he returned to Horse Mountain, there was no one to be found. Tou came back once again to the world, his heart was full of regret.